Recap: Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force Q&A

February 22, 2022 by Liliana Bechtold

On February 8, 2022, Ontario published the report from the Housing Affordability Task Force. Part of the provincial government's efforts to address the housing crisis, the report the report contains 55 recommendations that seek to increase housing supply and diversify housing options. On February 16, the School of Cities partnered with More Neighbours Toronto and the Toronto Region Board of Trade to host a question and answer session with members of the Task Force. After opening remarks by Eric Lombardi of More Neighbours Toronto, three Task Force members discussed their takeaways from the report and fielded questions from the audience about Ontario's housing crisis and what provincial housing policy might look like in the near future.

 

Jake Lawrence, Task Force Chair & Group Head, Global Banking and Markets, Scotiabank

“One of the things I took away was how much alignment and unanimity there was in everyone we consulted throughout the process....people realize this is an issue for Ontarians writ large."

"The two recommendations that I think are the most important are density and the approval process. The [development] approval process in Canada is the second slowest in the OECD."

Ene Underwood, Task Force Member & CEO, Habitat for Humanity

“ The underlying current of the report is that we need to rebalance our definition of democracy as it relates to what gets built where and for whom.

“I was sobered by [the realization of] where we are now with affordable housing. For every new non-profit affordable housing unit being built right now, we are losing fifteen below-market units at a time when we've had a [threefold] increase in housing prices in this country in a decade and a half.

Tim Hudak, Task Force Member & CEO, Ontario Real Estate Association

"The report is unapologetically pro-finding more affordable housing for people across our province. We didn't pull punches, we didn't water things down."
 

School of Cities director Karen Chapple noted the relative lack of attention to affordability measures in the report and how the nature of supply and demand in global cities might require more than simply adding more housing supply to address the crisis.

“There seems to be an assumption that new housing supply will be affordable at least to middle-income households, and then perhaps trickle down to others to alleviate some of the problem. This is what the rules of supply and demand tell us. But there are two problems with that assumption.  First, the rules of supply and demand don’t apply well in a global city with global demand and global investors. And second, you can solve regional affordability problems by adding supply, but effects will be very uneven across neighborhoods.” 

Chapple also questioned if there was consideration of strategies to deal with land value uplift resulting from rezoning and to recapture land value to preserve affordability. Finally, she wondered how Ontario might be able to avoid missteps of other states and cities in eliminating exclusionary zoning.  

The audience raised a number of the report’s critical (and contentious) points for discussion: as-of-right zoning, the recommended $10,000 filing fee for development appeals, rooming houses, and more. There was also a discussion about land value taxes and the potential benefits and drawbacks of targeted taxation.

The Task Force members on the panel emphasized the need for simplicity and direct recommendations, saying that some of the more complex ideas that might have been included in the report were left out to prioritize these values. 

Watch the recording of the event below:

 

 


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