Population growth the proverbial elephant in the room

By Mike Collins-Williams
June 21, 2021

Over the past year, record-breaking home sales and price increases have provoked urgent discussions on how to address the chronic undersupply of housing in the face of skyrocketing demand. The erosion of the middle class and the aspirations of young Canadians to start families in communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a huge issue that politicians and policy makers need to act on. With each passing year, homeownership, especially for younger generations, is becoming even more unattainable.

The Greater Golden Horseshoe is Canada’s primary economic engine and the fastest growing region in North America. The proverbial elephant in the room is the massive amount of growth still forecasted to come our way in the coming decades. The Greater Golden Horseshoe is forecast to welcome 4.6 million new people by 2051. To put this into context, the regional growth is equivalent to the entire population of Greater Montreal moving here over the next 30 years. The only way to keep the lid on housing prices, is for local municipalities to acknowledge that elephant in the room and make realistic and achievable plans to respond to population growth.

Supply and demand

Like anything else, housing prices are primarily a function of supply and demand. An under-appreciated driver of Ontario’s housing boom is the increase in the number of people moving to the province. Between 2015 and 2020, the growth rate in Ontario nearly doubled as the population grew by one million people. This rapid population growth has caused a significant shortage in family housing. This is why municipalities need to speed up approvals for transit-oriented communities with a diversity of unit sizes and to allow our urban boundaries to expand to accommodate more housing.

Realistically, we can’t continue to oppose to a city boundary expansion while simultaneously expecting housing prices to drop – or to not increase at the pace they have been recently. It is simply not a feasible approach, and it does not encourage complete communities.

Housing crisis

This is exactly why the provincial government has an updated Growth Plan to ensure there is sufficient supply and mix of housing, that also protects our valuable environmental resources within the Greenbelt. The Growth Plan provides direction on where and how to grow, but the ball is now in the municipal court. Municipalities need to implement realistic plans to respond to population growth and address the housing crisis.

The Canadian dream of owning a home is moving further away from our younger generations. It is critical that our elected officials plan for, and rapidly advance, opportunities for new housing in vibrant complete communities.

About Mike Collins-Williams

Mike Collins-Williams, RPP, MCIP, is CEO West End Home Builders’ Association. westendhba.ca.

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