Fresh Takes

Housing Shortage: It’s a Supply Issue

Anyone looking to buy a home has felt it: prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

The average price of a home in Canada reached an all-time high of $817,250 in February 2022. In contrast, only a decade earlier, the average was $372,739. But while prices have more than doubled, there’s a good chance your income hasn’t. No wonder young Canadians feel worried.

A good portion of the problem comes from the fact that supply has not kept up with growing demand in recent years. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates, the country will need to build just over 3.5 million more housing units by 2030 if affordability is to be restored to what it was in 2003-2004.

A lot of these would be in Ontario and British Columbia, but the supply problem extends to Quebec as well, with an anticipated need for 620,000 new homes in the province by 2030.

Ontario recently took a good first step toward addressing this issue. With its More Homes Built Faster plan, the government hopes to increase housing supply with what has been referred to as “the missing middle,” namely housing types that offer multi-housing units on single lots.

This part of the plan would allow landowners to have up to three housing units on lots previously restricted by municipal single-family or exclusionary zoning. These single-family lots occupy around 70 per cent of Toronto’s land area.

By enabling small multi-unit development on these lots, the government of Ontario is essentially telling landowners they won’t need to request changes in zoning if they want to turn their attic into an apartment, or build a laneway house on a previously unused part of their land.

Ontario’s More Homes Built Faster plan should serve as an example for Quebec and other provinces as to how provincial governments can act effectively to address the housing shortage. The solution is not new government-led development projects, but rather untying developers’ hands and letting them do what they do best: build more housing.

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