Affordable rental housing in Toronto – a pipe dream or soon-to-be reality? – February 28, 2018

Good morning subscribers and welcome to another edition of the Morning Brief! Securing affordable rental housing in Toronto remains a challenge despite housing plans developed by all three orders of government. This week, we look at the issue of affordable housing from a municipal perspective. The articles below discuss the consequences of a lack of affordable rental units, some driving causes, as well as potential policy solutions.

This week’s Morning Brief was prepared by Cindy Liu. Sign up here to receive the Morning Brief directly to your inbox.


  • In January, students from the School of Public Policy & Governance and the Department of Geography and Planning tackled the affordable housing challenge in the 2018 Municipal Policy Action Case Competition at the University of Toronto. For the competition, students crafted practical policy solutions on how Toronto could improve the quality, quantity, and support of its affordable rental housing sector. Their ideas included revamping current land transfer tax rates, using existing space to build mixed-use housing, and petitioning the province to create a new “rental-only” zoning category. [Thomson & Pulido/PPGR]
  • Shortages of affordable housing can have direct links with an increase in homelessness, an issue that Toronto is not unfamiliar with. Freezing temperatures as low as -37 C this winter have contributed to overcrowding at city shelters that are already constrained for resources – on January 1, shelters operated at roughly 95% capacity. To properly aid Toronto’s homeless citizens, Emily Burton-Brown highlights the importance of increasing the city’s emergency and affordable housing stock, as well as engaging with people to gain a better understanding of how we can help the homeless leave the streets permanently. [Burton-Brown/PPGR]
  • Toronto’s high cost of living is driving out skilled labour – a survey by the Toronto Region Board of Trade last year showed that 42% of young professionals would consider leaving the city due to the high cost of housing. Part of the reason for these rising rents is the low vacancy rate of less than 1%, which gives landlords more bargaining power over renters. To relax the city’s tight housing supply, the Board recommends a range of policies, such as altering restrictive rent controls, changing planning laws, and using public land for housing development. [Kalinowski/The Star]
  • Toronto’s 2018 budget contains “nearly across-the-board cuts” for programs and services, making the city more expensive to get around, to raise children in, and to afford shelter. Social Planning Toronto finds that a significant amount of spending is missing from the budget, which fails to provide funding to implement key strategies like the city’s Housing Opportunities Toronto 10-year plan, which sets a goal to create 10,000 new affordable rental units by 2020. However, between 2010 and 2017, only 3,532 rental units were built, with future projections showing that the city will likely fall short of its original target by more than half. [Pagliaro/The Star]

We hope these articles have spurred some thought on how Toronto can make housing more affordable for all citizens. The next edition of the Brief will be making its way to your inboxes on March 7, 2018.