The NIMBY mindset must change to improve housing affordability Image

The NIMBY mindset must change to improve housing affordability

By Sam Reiss on Sep 26, 2018

I’m getting nervous that NIMBYism will prevent the Toronto real estate market and the rest of the Greater Toronto Area from meeting the needs of eager homebuyers. The Building Industry and Land Development Association, along with the Toronto Real Estate Board, released some poll results recently that scared the hell out of me – pardon my French.  

According to BILD and TREB, 87% of GTA residents believe new housing is important when it comes to addressing affordability issues. The problem is that 59% oppose high-rise residential development within half a kilometre of their own home.

Even stacked townhomes are frowned upon, with 44% of GTA residents opposing construction within half a kilometre of where they live. The demand for detached homes is potentially the strongest out of all the housing types, but 30% of GTA residents prefer if these new homes weren’t built within half a kilometre of their residence.

So, where are the new homes supposed to be built?

Living in a detached home and saying don’t build another detached community within 500 metres of me is like a person living in a 40-storey condo opposing a new high-rise down the street. To me, it makes no sense. It scares me that people understand the logic of increasing supply to moderate pricing, but continue to fight development.

If you live in the GTA, it’s time to accept that it’s a desirable place to live and it will continue to grow. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was moving its headquarters to Toronto with plans to occupy 132,000 square feet across five floors on Bay St. That’s a lot of high paying, tech jobs coming to the city.

Then consider the Sidewalk Toronto project. It’s supposed to be the most tech forward community in the world. It will be a testing ground for all sorts of innovative civic tech. I can’t even begin to imagine how many businesses and residents will be attracted to this neighbourhood.

Housing affordability

High paying tech jobs equals a population with a higher average household income. That means prices are going to go up in the real estate market, and even more so if supply is struggling to meet the increased demand.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Serpentine Pavilion last weekend, where Westbank’s King Street West project will be built. The outdoor art exhibition featured the outstanding work by BIG, the architecture firm for King Street West. I overheard an agent talking to a crowd of people about the new condo; he said prices were going to start in the $700,000s at around $1,500 per square foot.

This is a premium address in the heart of downtown Toronto, with a design by a “starchitect,” so I understand the high price per square footage. I can’t confirm this price point is accurate though because it was only being said aloud – I didn’t see it written down anywhere.

My team recently chatted with Ben Myers, President of Bullpen Research & Consulting, and he said that he wouldn’t be surprised if condo prices in Toronto hit $2,000 per square foot in less than 10 years. With the average already hovering around $1,000 per square foot, and news of a project coming soon to market at $1,500, it’s not that difficult to picture Ben’s prediction coming true.

Toronto’s tech boom and acceptance of more creative, innovative architecture is amazing, but it shouldn’t prevent families and first-time buyers from being able to afford to live downtown Toronto or anywhere else the GTA.

The NIMBY mindset has to change if the GTA is to truly have vibrant, diverse communities. It’s an avoidable hurdle – let’s embrace mid-density housing so that more people of all professions, cultures, and backgrounds can call the GTA home.

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