When we talk about the affordable housing crisis in the GTA, we often focus on the growing need for affordable units. While talking about the demand is important, it distracts from finding solutions to the crisis.
David Amborski, Director of the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR), says the demand for affordable housing is fairly well-known — but the issue is supply.
“The biggest issue is working with government agencies to find land they might make available,” he says.
Here at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin, we’ve also found this to be a challenge. We struggle to find cheap land that is available, and fulfills the proper zoning requirements for our organization to be able to build housing. Despite these challenges, we remain steadfast in our belief that we can bring families together to build strength, stability and independence through affordable homeownership. We know that nonprofits like ourselves play an important role in working to find solutions to the affordable housing crisis.
“Part of [nonprofits’] ability to provide housing depends upon working with governments to have sites that are available at reasonable prices to be able to pass that on, ultimately, to the people who are going to be in those units,” Amborski says.
When so much of the conversation around affordable housing is centred around the demand, it can be hard to focus on solutions in the form of supply.
CUR has released a map outlining publicly available land that could be available for social housing or use by nonprofits, including under-utilized government land. Lobbying to make these lands available is one tangible solution; another is governments deciding to waive development charges for nonprofit housing providers so that high development charges are not incurred.
The recently released Action Plan for Improving Housing Affordability in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which Amborski co-authored, recommends eight policies for making housing more affordable.
The plan notes that better site zoning can increase the supply of properties to meet the increasing demand. Amborski notes that this demand is also coming from “millennials who comprise a large section of the emerging housing potential purchase market” in mostly urban areas. A number of pieces of research have identified that millennials are getting married and starting families later in life; but, similar to baby boomers, they want a single, ground-associated unit to raise their family so that they can “have a little sense of place,” Amborski says.
Other policy recommendations made in the plan include allowing secondary suites in houses to increase the stock of affordable rental units, delaying inclusionary zoning until regulations are further developed and conducting an in-depth review of the province’s land use planning system.
Overall, Amborski says it is “important to recognize there’s a basic human need” to provide housing.
In the end as we work to recognize this need for the affordable housing, we can’t forget about the role that nonprofits play. To learn more about the work that Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin is doing to bring affordable housing to local communities, visit our website.
By Sherina Harris
Updated: July 2, 2021