By Wayne Karl
Bryan Tuckey was on fire. Speaking at the Toronto Real Estate Board's (TREB) recent Market Year in Review & Outlook 2017 event, Tuckey was killing it on the topic of new low-rise homes. Owning the podium on a stage full of high-profile guests, including policy analysts, think-tank executives and even the Ontario Chief Economist and Assistant Finance Deputy Minister, Brian Lewis.
And if you've ever met Bryan Tuckey, president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), you know that he's as mild mannered an industry leader as there is.
"Never in my 30 years in the industry have I seen such a disconnect between public policy and a lack public awareness and understanding," he fumed.
The cause of his rancor was - and still is - the Ontario government's land-use policy favouring intensification in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which includes the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and is Canada's fastest-growing urban region and the economic engine of Ontario. Such policy, says Tuckey, effectively limits the land available to build new homes. The end result is a housing shortage in all types that is approaching "crisis levels" and causing skyrocketing prices.
Worse, he says, is that the general public doesn't fully understand the impact.
It's an issue more and more voices are speaking out on, including former mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion.
HUDAK AN IMPORTANT VOICE
Add to the list, Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association. "Finding a home is only going to get worse until housing supply is addressed.
"Population growth is rapidly increasing in cities where we are also seeing some of the lowest levels of inventory in history," says Hudak. "Realtors and builders in this province have been saying that new homes and resale listings cannot keep up with the demand in the market. Population growth is not the problem here - the lack of housing availability is the problem; and if it is not fixed soon, we could have a severe affordability crisis on our hands.
"If first-time buyers, young families, newcomers to our province, are going to have any chance at home ownership, provincial and municipal governments must focus on increasing housing supply," he says. "Government-imposed barriers are restricting builders from bringing more housing supply online. To make homeownership more affordable, the province should work with municipalities to loosen building restrictions, speed up approvals to allow developers to build 'missing middle' housing types like townhomes, duplexes and stacked townhomes."
Pretty strong words, from someone who knows how government works. The former Ontario MPP and leader of the provincial PC party, joins Tuckey and others in lobbying Queen's Park on the housing issue.
"It certainly helps to know your way around Queen's Park," Hudak told YPNextHome. "We've been very active in the media and through direct advocacy. We've had meetings with the Premier and senior officials in her office, as well as the Minister of Finance, Housing and Municipal Affairs. It appears the government is engaged in this issue. We're putting good ideas on the table that will help increase supply and keep the dream of homeownership within reach."
For more on Hudak's and OREA's efforts, read this Q&A.
The cause might just need the help.
Another speaker at the TREB outlook event said that no, the Ontario government has made enough land available for development. The amount of land allocated for growth is not the most pressing problem facing the region, according to Marcy Burchfield, executive director of the Neptis Foundation, Toronto, which conducts and disseminates nonpartisan research, analysis and mapping related to the design and function of Canadian urban regions.
"Provincial policies have not created a shortage of land for housing," says Burchfield. "More than 100,000 hectares have been set aside in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to accommodate population and employment growth to 2031; over 56,000 hectares are in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Ground-related housing remains the predominant form of housing planned. Neptis research also shows that less than 20 per cent of this land supply has been built on since 2006."
This seems to contradict everything BILD and others are saying.
"All land is not created equal," Tuckey told YPNextHome. "The Neptis data is at a level that lacks detail. Much of the land referenced in their study does not have the critical infrastructure that makes development possible. They have assumed that all of the vacant designated greenfield area is available for residential development. In reality, residential development is prohibited in much of the GTA.
"Substantial parts are not serviced with water and/or sewers. In some cases, the required servicing is not expected to be built within the next 10 years. Lands can be designated for residential development in an official plan, but until such time as servicing is in place, residential development is prohibited.
"Even where land is designated for residential development and can be readily serviced, residential development cannot occur until the land is appropriately zoned and plans of subdivision are draft approved and then registered. Building permits cannot be issued until these conditions are met."
So, the debate continues: how much is Ontario's land-use policy causing the supply shortage and pricing issue? And what is the government doing about it?
Originally published on YPNextHome.ca