‘An everything crisis’: Housing affordability is a top Toronto issue in Ontario election campaign – Toronto.com

Simon Tran wants things to change.

Growing up in car-dependent Brampton, the industrial technician dreamed of a more urban life and in 2020 bought a 600-square-foot Etobicoke condo.

He probably couldn’t afford it now. Family and friends are anxious, said Tran, 28, about a housing market that’s become so pricey some, including him, have thought of leaving Ontario behind.

“The housing crisis is an everything crisis,” he said.

After June 2, Tran and other young Torontonians want the province’s next government to get more housing built and make it cheaper to buy.

Political parties agree, but Tran and others seeking affordable homes in Toronto — whether owned or rented — could face opposition from homeowners who acknowledge the crisis but don’t want more neighbours.

Tran believes city councillors “are beholden to” such residents. He wants the province “to step in and do the job municipal governments are not willing to do.”

Farheen Alim, Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s New Democratic candidate, said she hears about housing affordability at “almost every door, when I ask,” and that rents are unaffordable for many.

A high school teacher, Alim in an interview said she learned during the pandemic some students were living in apartments with multiple families.

At 31, Alim added, she’s part of a generation in Toronto that doesn’t feel down payments are within reach. “So many of my friends still have to live at home.”

The Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force this year recommended removing exclusionary zoning restricting 70 per cent of Toronto’s residential land to single-family or semi-detached homes.

Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats adopted the group’s recommendation to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years, but the PCs haven’t committed to allowing multiplexes and garden suites across Ontario’s cities, perhaps to avoid provoking suburban homeowners.

Real estate groups support the report, and Lisa Patel, Toronto Real Estate Board past president and Scarborough Southwest Liberal, applauded the government for putting the task force together.

But Patel said Ontario’s next government must “really push the dial” to create more housing, because rising immigration will make Toronto’s housing supply crisis worse.

She predicted more highrises and some multiplexing in Toronto neighbourhoods as the city grows. “We have to gently move into intensification.”

Fixing the crisis will take years and co-operation from many partners, but can be done, Patel said, adding, “People are looking for a silver bullet but there really isn’t one.”

Robin Martin, PC candidate for Eglinton-Lawrence, in a written statement, said she increasingly hears from residents “who worry about their children and grandchildren finding a place to live near where they grew up or close to friends and family.”

“That’s why we are taking action to put the dream of home ownership within reach for more Ontarians by building more homes.”

The PC government helped over 100,00 new homes start construction last year, including 13,000 purpose-built rental units, “the highest rate of new construction in more than 30 years,” Martin added.

While some believe government should build housing, Steve Doherty, executive director of Youth Without Shelter, an Etobicoke charity that gets clients housing and jobs, believes the province should reduce barriers for the private sector and make it profitable to build affordable rental units.

“When there is more, there’s choices,” he said.

While parties speak of building affordable housing, Mark Richardson, technical lead for HousingNowTO, an advocacy group supporting new rental housing projects, worries that might be lost amid their apparently stronger focus on affordable ownership and first-time buyers.

No party explicitly promises to build affordable housing around GO stations, the Scarborough subway extension, Ontario Line or other major transit projects, Richardson said by email.

A poll by Vote4Housing, a group backed by community and co-operative housing providers, found 64 per cent of Torontonians agreed housing investments for lower-income Ontarians “benefit everyone, not just lower income people,” and 70 said building new subsidized housing “can help end homelessness and stimulate Ontario’s economic recovery.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Reporter Mike Adler wanted to understand how housing affordability is being seen in Toronto in the provincial election campaign.