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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Ontario must commit to affordable housing for all, not affordable housing

During his provincial election victory speech on June 2, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his goal is to create more housing to make the housing market more “accessible” for all.

Although most people probably did not pay attention to the specific choice of words Ford used during his speech, it is worrying that Ford omitted the word “affordable” instead of “accessible”.

Instead of applying a term that describes the economic side of the housing crisis, his screenwriters chose a word that means achievable, realistic, manageable.

This is troubling because it indicates that Ford is actively shifting the discourse away from an already very loose concept into an area that is less defined.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, with his wife Carla, celebrates on stage after Ontario’s re-election as prime minister.
Canadian Press/Nathan Dennett

In February, Ford presented the Housing Affordability Task Force report, which recognized the existence of the housing crisis and the urgent need for affordable housing.

However, despite acknowledging the need for more affordable rentals, the report failed to explain How In fact the province will achieve it. It is somewhat ironic, given the title of Task Force.

Furthermore, the report does not address some of the housing-related problems such as evictions, rent control and homelessness.

deepening housing crisis

Statistics Canada defines housing affordability as no more than 30 percent of household income is spent on housing related expenses.

However, in the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario more broadly, there is a large disparity between rising housing prices and household income.

There has been a tremendous boom in the real estate market. Since 2010, it has nearly tripled within the Greater Toronto Area (from $431,262 in April 2022 to $1,254,436) as well as within Ontario (from $329,000 in 2021 to $923,000).

Real Estate Sign On The Lawn Of A House
A sold out sign is displayed in front of a house in the Riverdale area of ​​Toronto in September 2021. One of the major causes of the housing crisis in the Greater Toronto Area is the disparity between rising housing prices and stable household incomes.
Canadian Press/Evan Buehler

At the same time, median household income has increased by only a third. This disparity between increased housing prices and stable household income is a major cause of the housing crisis in Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area.

housing finance

Ford may have avoided the term affordable because the economic development model in Canada relies on the conversion of housing from a human right to a financial investment tool – a process known as housing financialisation.

Since the early 2000s, Ontario has adopted this economic development model that prioritizes property speculation and real estate-driven economic growth.

Housing financing has resulted in the creation of new housing projects for investment purposes rather than for affordability and accessibility. This economic growth model is a major cause of the housing crisis in Ontario.

A Graph Showing The Various Driving Forces Behind The Ontario Economy
Currently, real estate is the top driving sector of the Ontario economy.
(Statistics Canada), author provided

Ford is a supporter of development and acts as an anti-environmentalist by advocating for more urban sprawl in the form of more suburban housing.

The large-scale suburbanization process in the Greater Toronto Area will be accelerated through further housing finance. Unless we force politicians to change the current economic model through policies, the housing crisis will continue to deepen.

The need for a strong housing agenda

Increasing the housing supply – the most commonly proposed scenario for dealing with the crisis by all major parties with the exception of the Green Party – will not solve the problem unless the affordable housing supply is specifically increased.

While the general housing supply continues to increase, there are no clear policies for affordable housing, supported through policies from all three levels of government.

As a consequence, housing prices continue to rise, or at least become unaffordable, because adding supply does not automatically cause housing prices to fall.

Affordability can only be achieved with an ambitious plan that invests in affordable rental housing, as was done in Toronto between 1960–79, when 66 percent of all new housing was built as purpose-built rental units. was built in. Since then, there has been little investment in this housing option.

Even though there are some projects from different levels of government, this is the only way to narrow down the long list of 79,572 people waiting for affordable housing in Toronto.

This is why there is a need for all three levels of government to act, come together and develop an ambitious plan for affordable housing. We must protest Ford’s new term for “attainable” housing and, with it, prevent him from abandoning the pursuit of truly affordable housing.

Sefi Tomar, general secretary of the Canadian branch of the International Real Estate Federation, co-authored this article.

World Nation News Desk
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