Ask An Agent: What Are the Best Ideas for Increasing Affordable Housing?

Affordable Housing
Alex Beauregard

Realtor Alex Beauregard is committed to raising his young family in the Seaton Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

However, the Sutton Group Associates Realty Inc. sales representative knows that raising a family in the city is getting more and more difficult thanks to Toronto’s affordable housing crisis. So, with a family background in construction giving him insight into what developers need to increase Toronto’s housing inventory, we asked him this week’s tough question.

What are your best ideas for increasing affordable housing in Toronto?

I know housing affordability is an immensely important topic affecting many Torontoians. Whether you’re a buyer who has left the city and is willing to tolerate the long commutes in exchange for homeownership, or you’ve chosen to remain in an equally difficult and highly competitive rental market.

Affordable housing is something many in Toronto are clamouring for, but what is actually “affordable?” According to the benchmark recommendation I hear from lenders, they define affordable as 30% of your pre-tax income.

That benchmark target quickly becomes a problem when the average home in the GTA has now surpassed $800,000. In order to qualify for a mortgage for such a home, buyers need an annual household income of $140,000, even though the median annual household income in Toronto is actually $71,631. It’s even more difficult for first-time home buyers who are are subject to stringent mortgage stress-test rules and pending interest rate hikes.

READ: Toronto Still Exploring Implementation of Vacant Homes Tax

With the bar for homeownership at a point that would have a typical household needing to spend 80% of their income to cover a mortgage, property taxes, and utilities, many will simply be shut out from ever owning a home in Toronto. So what do you do? In my opinion, the only way to reduce home prices in this city is to increase housing inventory.  And here’s how I think you can do that:

First, I’d like to see Toronto follow Seattle’s example and designate more land for affordable housing near public transportation. Developing affordable housing near transportation hubs will put more families near work opportunities and help reduce their monthly expenses because they will no longer have to rely on a car, which will ultimately put more money in their pockets.

The city should also loosen the rules around housing density. The municipal government should encourage the building of denser options like condos, duplexes, townhouses and laneway houses to build up more single-family neighbourhoods. The city also needs to enforce Airbnb regulations, so they can preserve the rental options that currently exist on the market.

READ: Employers Could Be the Solution to Fixing Toronto’s Housing Crisis: Report

The city and the federal government should also work together to accelerate the productivity of the building construction industry by cutting the regulations that are limiting the supply of land available for new housing. They should also decrease the timing and financial burdens on developers that make their projects less viable.

Finally, we need to encourage our aging population to downsize and sell their homes sooner, by building smaller, accessible housing in their communities so they can age in place.

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