In a recent survey, Forum Research found that 69% of Toronto residents feel that the City should be doing more to increase the supply of rental housing across the city. As previously reported, there is a rental housing crisis in Toronto due to the influx of new residents, declining affordability (forcing would-be buyers to rent), municipal bylaws & regulations that discourage the creation of enough rental units to meet demand. For example, rent control rules were recently changed to eliminate the exemption for rental units created after 1991; this will help tenants who already have accommodation, but it may further discourage creation of new rental units.
Not surprisingly, the respondents most likely to say the City isn’t doing enough are millennials, who are paradoxically (but again not surprisingly) the respondents most likely to say that current rental legislation is tilted in favour of landlords.
Early last year, the City established CreateTO, a new real estate agency tasked ‘to manage the City’s real estate portfolio, develop City buildings and lands for municipal purposes and deliver client focused real estate solutions to City divisions, agencies and corporations’. This is a very broad mandate, however, the success or failure of this initiative will most likely be measured by how much affordable housing the city manages to build, according to Brian Johnston, CreateTO’s CEO and the so-called ‘real estate Czar’ of Toronto.
While this initiative is certainly welcome (if not long overdue), and should result in more affordable housing (Mayor Tory’s goal is 40,000 new units in 12 years), it will be too little and far to late to make much of a dent in the housing crisis in the near term.
The respondents to the Forum survey were right: the City isn’t doing enough to deal with the housing crisis. For example, some creativity and a greater sense of urgency could help to remove some of the regulatory and municipal bylaw barriers to creating more rental units from existing homes, however, this might be too much to expect from the City’s hidebound bureaucracy.