News / Toronto

Report on Canada's National Housing Strategy misses mark for millennials, advocate says

The report doesn't recognize the problems young people face buying homes and affording rent in cities like Toronto, says Generation Squeeze's Paul Kershaw.

Daniel Bernhard and his partner rent in Little Italy, and doubt they’ll ever be able to save up enough for a down payment on a home, as rent already eats up so much of their income.

Liz Beddall / Metro

Daniel Bernhard and his partner rent in Little Italy, and doubt they’ll ever be able to save up enough for a down payment on a home, as rent already eats up so much of their income.

The first glimpse at what’s in store for Canada’s National Housing Strategy misses the mark when it comes to millennials and young families says one youth advocate.

A federal government report released Tuesday presents the results of four months of nationwide consultations on housing that will shape recommendations in the final strategy, planned for release sometime next year.

It identifies key priorities, like eliminating homelessness, and recognizing the unique challenges indigenous people face in finding housing. But there’s not enough about the growing problem of young people priced out of home ownership — and even the rental market — in big cities like Toronto, said Paul Kershaw, founder of the non-profit Generation Squeeze.

“I’m very discouraged by the way in which this report suggests it has heard from Canadians across the country because it is still reflecting a very outdated sense of what’s happening in the housing market,” he told Metro.

Youth are mentioned in the report, but they are lumped into a category of vulnerable groups called “other,” along with LGBTQ people and veterans. They’re also not highlighted at all in the executive summary.

The report fails to recognize that while rising home prices, across the GTA and in other cities like Vancouver and Victoria B.C., have benefited older Canadians, younger people have lost out because they just can’t crack the market, Kershaw said.

It’s a problem Toronto’s Daniel Bernhard knows well.

The 29-year-old small business owner shares a one-bedroom plus den apartment in Little Italy with his partner, who’s also a professional.

He’d love to own a home but “could never imagine” buying in the area but it’s “basically impossible to save” with rent being so high.

"The mountain is now three times taller, and they’ve asked you to climb it carrying three times more weight on your back," he said.

Michelle German, coordinator of the GTA Housing Action Lab, said although young people aren’t highlighted in the report, there are suggested programs and funding proposals they could benefit from, including incentives for developers to build more affordable rental units.

Coun. Ana Bailão, Toronto City Council’s housing advocate, noted a key theme of the report is making housing affordable — and that will benefit everyone.

In addition to dealing with important issues like homelessness and social housing, she said it’s important to recognize high rent and out-of-reach home ownership in Toronto, where the emergency button is flashing “very red.”

“We haven’t had action on this file form the federal government for over a generation,” she said. “For me, the most important thing is balancing between the complexity of the file and the urgency of the issue.”

But for Bernhard it’s “frustrating” not to see realities like his reflected.

“Nobody wants to talk about devaluing the housing market,” he said about the report. “Unless the prices go back down to some sort of sane level, we are not going to be able to have affordable housing.”

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