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How do we fix Toronto's housing crisis? Experts weigh in

We asked six experts what it will take to combat ballooning social housing waitlists and a lack of affordable homes.

Houses under construction in Toronto on Friday, June 26, 2015.

The Canadian Press

Houses under construction in Toronto on Friday, June 26, 2015.

Toronto is in trouble when it comes to housing, say experts concerned about ballooning social housing waitlists and a lack of affordable homes.

The city’s 10-year goal of creating 10,000 affordable rental units and 3,000 affordable homes by 2020 is cause for worry, they say, because by the end of last year, Toronto wasn’t even halfway to reaching either target.

To figure out how the city could do better, politicians, experts and concerned citizens will gather in Regent Park at the Toronto Housing Summit on Friday.

Ahead of the summit, we asked them what could be done to fix the crisis.

Ana Bailão: Ward 18 city councillor

Torstar News Service file

Ana Bailão: Ward 18 city councillor

Ana Bailão

Ward 18 city councillor

Bailão can sum up one of the most helpful housing solutions in two words: “more land.” Already, she says, the city has found 15 sites valued at just over $100 million through its new Open Door program that frees up vacant lots and unused land for private and non-profit developers.

“All governments have land, all governments could come in. We need the province and the feds to do what we’ve just done.”

Richard Florida.

Torstar News Service file

Richard Florida.

Richard Florida

Director of Cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management

Land-use restrictions need to be updated so more housing can be built, says Florida.

“It’s time for Toronto to get rid of the NIMBYIsm that oppose the density our city needs and locks us into the past.”


Cathy Crowe

Torstar News Service file

Cathy Crowe

Cathy Crowe

Street nurse and visiting professor at Ryerson University’s department of politics

A national program aimed at building student, low-income and seniors housing can help the crisis Toronto is facing as long as it’s started now and doesn’t come with excessive rounds of consultations and delays in getting funding, says Crowe.

“It comes back to show me the money. The city can’t do much without money.”

Stephen Hwang

Contributed

Stephen Hwang

Stephen Hwang

Doctor and director of the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael's Hospital

Hwang thinks solving the housing crisis lies in inclusionary zoning — a process where developers are required to make a percentage of the units they build affordable.

“We need a system in which developers making enormous profits also create affordable housing and we need targeted rent supplements and support for people with higher needs.”

 

Brent Toderian . Chief City Planner for Vancouver pictured in Sydney.

Contributed

Brent Toderian . Chief City Planner for Vancouver pictured in Sydney.

Brent Toderian

Former Vancouver chief planner and city planner at Toderian UrbanWorks

Often in conversations about housing, experts run through a list of solutions involving inclusionary zoning, relief programs and developer incentives, but the big picture is missed, points out Toderian.

“We need strategies for affordability in the broadest sense including purpose-built rental, housing, broad living costs including transportation and even the protection of job space for diverse jobs.”

Emily Paradis

Contributed

Emily Paradis

Emily Paradis

Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership research associate at the University of Toronto

Like Hwang, Paradis believes inclusionary zoning can do wonders for affordable housing, but she thinks it can only work with financing for non-profits, rent subsidies and commitments that inclusionary zoning will remain affordable in perpetuity.

“We need new developments to be planned in a way that addresses the needs of lower-income households, including public transit, services, recreational spaces, and amenities to meet the needs of residents across the lifespan from infancy to old age.”

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