The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis released a new study recently, reporting how the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will be impacted by the lack of missing middle housing and the potential effects of the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal system.
The study, The GTHA’s Unbalanced Housing Stock: Benchmarking Ontario’s New LPAT System, states that the current mix of housing across the GTHA can not meet the future requirements outlined by the Places to Grow Act.
At the current rate of construction, the GTHA is at risk of falling short by 7,200 dwellings a year, which would lead to an average loss of $1.95 billion in GDP, which is directly accrued from residential construction. Clearly, it is essential that municipalities hit their population targets by building enough homes. The population target for the GTHA is just over 10 million by 2041. Toronto will account for 3.4 million of these people.
Why is there cause for concern? The Ontario Municipal Board was recently replaced by the LPAT, which gives municipalities more power over what type of residential developments are approved. As opposed to a third-party organization making decisions based on zoning and other policies, we now have councillors answering to constituents making the decisions.
There are pros and cons to the LPAT system. It’s important for the community to have a say when it comes to development in their neighbourhood, but it’s been proven that most people oppose high-density residential development near their own home. The issue is that high-density housing is what we need.
Nearly 60% of GTA residents oppose high-rise residential development within half a kilometre of their own home, and almost 50% oppose stacked townhomes. If this is the case, and municipalities are answering to their constituents, what are the odds that the GTHA will actually build enough missing middle homes to reach population targets?
The rental market has it tough, too. CANCEA found that 50% of renters are paying more than they can afford in shelter costs. And there’s a shocking imbalance in suitable housing when you compare renters to owners. For example, renters have 3.2 times more need for bedrooms compared to owners, but owners have an average 2.8 times more bedrooms than needed. It’s clear that larger rental suites need to be built, ones that are designed for families.
CANCEA recommends a healthy mix of housing in each municipality to accommodate the growing population. “In all upper-tier municipalities, if more than 50% of starts consist of detached and semi-detached homes, this will lead to land constraints over the long run,” reads the study. “The density mix of current starts is over that threshold in all municipalities other than Toronto.” Toronto actually requires between 20 and 70% medium density developments.
The study concludes that it remains to be seen whether the LPAT system will create a wider mix of housing types in the GTHA. The system is supposed to speed up the approval process, which will go a long way if it actually works because lengthy approvals lead to higher costs for builders. There are many hurdles to overcome though, like transitioning to the new system and working with tighter timelines and new regulations.
It’s clear that the GTHA needs more missing middle housing, it’s just a matter of how it gets built.