A new report by the building industry strongly argues that the Ontario government’s new policy is not delivering the ideal requirements for the Ontario homebuyer. The report published by Fortress Real Developments, a member of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), illustrates a disconnect between the demands of the GTA housing market and policies around land use. Although the report may contain considerable bias, it does raise some very valid concerns that should be addressed by the real estate community. The central issue that it raises is that Ontario government intervention is not taking full account of some of the long-held preferences of the consumer.
Social media surveys conducted for the report indicates that high-rise condo living is decidedly less desirable than single-family housing, which is especially true for families. Interestingly, 36% of those surveyed would prefer a townhouse with outdoor space outside the GTA over a high-rise condo in downtown Toronto—even if it meant that the daily commute to work was over an hour long. This shows that the prospective homebuyer prioritizes space over convenience. However, it seems that development in the GTA is not matching this demand with the focus on high rise buildings. The report draws a conclusion that the issue is based around the essential services that the provincial land-use policy restricts. Urban planners surveyed for the report voiced the concern that a “no servicing allocation” means that critical infrastructure such as water, waste water and hydro, cannot be put in place on land where new housing could be built– 42% of planners surveyed identified this as an impediment to the development of new low-rise housing. This is pushing this type of housing outside the GTA with an increase of 6,000 low-rise sales in the Greater Golden Horseshoe reported in 2016 compared with two years previously.
The solution according to planners is a loosening of restrictions to allow for improved and more affordable housing in the GTA. Effectively filling what it sees as the ‘missing middle’ housing of duplex, fourplex and stacked townhouses. However, without an alignment of basic infrastructure, amenities, retail and transport, the savvy homebuyer is unlikely to be tempted to move back to the GTA.