The Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) recently released a report discussing the shortage of affordable housing in Toronto and presenting a solution. The magic ingredient to solving the housing crunch can be found in ‘infill’ land, low density or undeveloped space in and around public transit and transportation nodes across the city. The ‘infill’ land is near subway stations, GO stops, and major highway interchanges. Outside of the downtown core, infill land is generally low rise, although there is some mid rise construction at these sites also.
The FRPO estimates that 176,000 new units of housing could be added to Toronto’s rental market at over 950 sites across the city. Many of those units would be within walking distance of subway and transit sites. The key to these infill locations is that they are already zoned, purchased, and ready to be developed – the question is can the density be built up at enough of them? One of the major policy solutions the Ford Government has committed to in addressing housing concerns has been to increase density at GO station and public transit locations. This mirrors the proposal of the FRPO. The province sees this as a win win for developers, prospective home-owners, and governments. Developers make a profit, home owners get more housing buy opportunities, and governments get higher tax revenues.
Embarking on an aggressive development campaign on infill land would be one way to alleviate the historically low levels of development we’re seeing in Ontario lately. If one were to measure the number of housing completions per 1,000 people, today output is at 4. This matches historic low points in the early 1990s in the aftermath of the 80s real estate bubble popping, the late 70s recession, and the 1953 recession. Throughout the economic boom of the late 50s and 60s, housing completions rose from 6 to 11 homes built per 1,000 people. Our low rate of housing construction has been in place for the last 12 years. We need to build more housing, period.