Affordable Housing in the GTA? PART TWO

Just think about how the world has changed in the last 50-60 years! Even 30 years ago, in many homes, many kids shared a room with a sibling and their family had one car, one television and no computers or cell phones. The cost to live was simply cheaper. When we think about affordable housing in real estate, what does affordability really mean? In today’s world of mass production, instant technology and convenience, maybe we need to think of affordable in the same context as necessity, quality and basic human rights. In a city as large as Toronto we struggle with the concept of affordability, and we will continue to if we don’t look at the concept through a new perspective.

The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), states that the average one bedroom apartment rents for $949 in Toronto. That is a far cry from the average rent of a one bedroom in Manhattan at $3000-$3800 (depending on if you have a doorman). Ok, so Toronto isn’t New York, but it does put things into perspective. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the financial capital. We have a transportation system (albeit flawed), continuing job creation and immigration and pretty good entertainment options for the average Torontonian. As Canada continues to be seen on the world stage as a great nation, with its stable banks, dollar and debt, Toronto will continue to be seen as a great place to live. If we want to avoid the massive real estate costs of city’s like Manhattan, we need to dig a little deeper.

So what has happened to us to account for the rising trend of less affordable housing? I came across an interesting story, in which the author wrote; “In 1950, housing accounted for 22% of a family’s spending. In 2007, housing costs had risen to 43% of spending. Why? Since 1950, the average house size has doubled, now standing around 2,200-2,400 square feet. In 1950, it was common for houses to have one bathroom, for kids to share bedrooms, and for closets to be rather small (and since people had less ‘stuff’ the small closets seemed ample at the time). Now, houses have more bathrooms than bedrooms and walk-in closets that are the size of many smaller bedrooms in a 1950’s house! Many families of today could not imagine raising a family in the house their parents grew up in. But the truth is, millions of families lived in those houses and survived.”

Now that makes sense. Maybe our perspective of affordable has changed because our perspective of quality (or rather size) has changed. We want a bedroom for each child, a laptop AND an ipod, cell phones for everyone, all the cable stations offered (even though we still can’t find anything to watch), 100 pairs of shoes and a car for everyone legally able to drive. We don’t want to cook, clean our own house or take public transit.

However, now our housing costs too much. In Manhattan, most new graduates have to get a roommate if they want to live in the city. A junior one bedroom is actually a bachelor with a wall separating a place to put a bed. If we want to make housing affordable in Toronto we might have to be more creative.

Unless we greatly increase supply, and utilize space better, the divide between the have’s and have not’s will continue to rise. As the average housing prices continue to soar in the GTA, so too does rent. We also need the government to plan for the future. That means policies, incentives and processes that enable affordable housing in this great city.

Next week, we will look at some basic and/or creative ways that we, and our government, can truly make housing affordable in Toronto.

Mekler Property Management offers property management services in the Greater Toronto Area. For more information, please visit us at – We help you be a landlord without being the landlord!

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