The Municipal Issue of Affordable Housing

08 Nov

The Municipal Issue of Affordable Housing

In October, the GTA was gripped in election fever. Sure, there were several candidates but it was really a two-horse race between John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat. In the end, Tory remains Toronto’s mayor. Despite the usual election rhetoric about crime and property taxes, the one issue that loomed large was that of affordable housing in the GTA.

How did affordable housing become such an elusive dream? And why is it arguably the most prominent municipal issue plaguing Toronto and surrounding communities?

What Does Affordable Housing Mean?

While the term might seem straightforward, the City of Toronto does have a definition of affordable housing. As of now, for a property to fall under the definition of affordable housing it must cost below the average market rent of $1,202 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,426 for a two bedroom.

This is problematic as these costs are still too high for the average GTA resident and don’t consider the other costs associated with housing.  Based on these parameters, affordable housing in the GTA is in limited supply.

Keesmaat vs Tory: The Future of Affordable Housing 

While there is a federal housing strategy, the ability to usher in a comprehensive affordable housing plan falls on the laps of the municipality. It is on the city to combat rental prices that have risen to a 15-year high and the low vacancy rate.

Jennifer Keesmaat’s ambitious affordable housing plan hung on the tactic of constructing 100,000 new affordable rental units over the next decade. Part of her campaign included firing shots at Tory’s lackluster effectiveness with respect to affordable housing.

John Tory’s approach has always been more measured and timid, evidenced by his track record, which includes the approval of roughly 4,000 units during his tenure. He has received some heat for his lack of action or the slow-moving nature of his plan but there is a chance that it will prove successful in the long term. Now, GTA residents have no choice but to hope that that is true

Tory must come through on his affordable housing promise during his second term. People need to be able to afford their rent especially if they’re going to be shut out of the housing market.