High housing prices in Canadian cities have been blamed on everything under the sun. Could it be, that the root of the Canadian housing saga lies in the supply as opposed to the demand?
“In the long run, we’re going to have to build more housing,” Mike Moffatt, the executive director of the Ottawa-based Smart Prosperity Institute, told CTV News.
“That’s going to mean some difficult decisions around zoning, around urban growth boundaries, around social housing.”
Some experts believe that the problem at the core of expensive housing is the regulations making it difficult for cities to organically expand. More specifically, the process of building new homes often proves to be lengthy and riddled with red tape.
“There are significant opportunities to expand and accelerate the delivery of a diverse range of homes,” stated a report published by the Canada-British Columbia Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply in June.
“We believe that additional, sustained efforts by all orders of government—the provincial government in particular—will be required to stem and eventually reverse current trends,” the report continued.
The panel put forth five calls to action for improving housing affordability in Canada. These include (1) Creating a planning framework that proactively encourages housing; (2) Reforming fees on property development; (3) Expanding the supply of community and affordable housing; (4) Improving coordination among and within all orders of government; and (4) Ensuring more equitable treatment of renters and homeowners.
Of those five, three of them focus on encouraging the development of new housing units as opposed to slowing it down. The report particularly takes issue with the planning and approval process for new housing units put in place by local governments.
“A dominant theme throughout the Panel’s consultations and analysis was the slow and unpredictable pace at which new housing—both for-profit and non-profit—receives regulatory approval from government authorities,” the findings of the report explained.
“Speeding up or streamlining processes, such as rezoning and development applications, was identified as critical to enabling a more responsive housing supply,” the panel continued.
Another obstacle lies in the fact that much of the city is reserved for certain types of housing – making it difficult for developers to secure land for multi-unit housing such as condominiums and apartment buildings.
An editorial published in the Globe and Mail also states that the bulk of municipal land zoned for housing in many cities is reserved for single-detached homes. Multi-unit housing, on the other hand, is restricted to specifically designated areas.
A handful of solutions have been proposed to rectify this issue.
Jeremy Withers, a PhD candidate at U of T, whose dissertation focuses on inclusionary zoning policy, tells Brandford Today that he wants to see the growth of 100-unit buildings in cities like downtown Toronto.
In addition, Bradford Today reports that another zoning changes that has been suggested to improve affordability is increasing density in residential areas – many of which only allow detached homes.
Experts like Withers and others warn however, that there is no guarantee that any new units added – regardless of the type of housing – will be affordable.