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York Region must double homes built in next decade: report

Region planning for 88,500 homes, but University of Ottawa Smart Prosperity Institute says 180,100 needed to meet projected demand
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York Region is grappling with a new report that suggests municipalities across the province will need to build significantly more housing than planned.

The University of Ottawa’s Smart Prosperity Institute released a report, entitled Ontario’s Need for 1.5 Million More Homes, that sought to examine the housing target the province has laid out for the next decade — which ultimately concluded the target is reasonable. 

Based on the report, the region would need to build 18,000 homes per year over the next decade — more than double what it projects to build in that time (7,900 annually).

Fiven some delays to provincial approvals of official plans, that target would be hard to meet, Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Iain Lovatt said today at York Region’s housing affordability task force.

“If we can’t get the growth that we already have forecasted approved in a timely manner,” he said, “it’s quite challenging to think we’re going to find another 18,000 units per year over the next decade to build.” 

The region approved its official plan in July, though it has yet to get provincial sign-off. It bases its targets on the province's growth plan, which estimates growing by approximately 800,000 over the next 30 years. 

But the report estimates that the GTA will need to do much more to address housing demand. Using benchmarks for the rest of Canada and population forecasts, it suggests a pre-existing shortage of 471,500 units across the province, plus more than one million homes that need to be built for expected growth. 

Much of that is concentrated in Toronto, Peel and York, the report said. While York Region has planned to build 88,500 homes over the next decade based on the provincial growth plan, the report said 180,100 would be needed.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said the report is coming late, given all the existing work and reporting around local official plans, which had to meet a July provincial deadline. 

Meeting the housing need is also more than just supply, Taylor said, noting direction is needed to ensure a variety of homes as opposed to only ones that could be unaffordable for many. 

“Meeting whatever the housing demand is is important, but this is not addressing housing affordability unless there’s a lot of other housing policy changes that come with it,” Taylor said. 

The Ontario government has promised to build 1.5 million more homes by 2031. But making that a reality will require more planning, the Smart Property Institute said.

“The year 2031 is rapidly approaching, and there is still much work to be done to turn a housing target into a housing plan,” the report said.

York Region planner Paul Bottomley said they would closely monitor and respond to upcoming growth. He added there are challenges such as approval timelines, plus labour and supply shortages in the short term.

“The key would be the timing of approvals,” region Chairman  and CEO Wayne Emmerson said. “It’s going to be one that’s going to be an issue. An issue for everyone. It’s a lot of housing going forward.”