A 14-year-old growth plan notwithstanding, Toronto is gripped by a housing shortage, the likely cause of which is its toothless municipal politicians who dare not upset their constituents.
“The challenge with City Hall and its politicians is every time you start a conversation about development in a neighbourhood, you get a pushback with people saying, ‘Yes, but not in my backyard,’” said Von Palmer, chief communications and government affairs officer and chief privacy officer of the Toronto Real Estate Board.
“Politicians are leery about getting involved knowing that the pushback is coming, but it needs to happen. We can’t talk out both sides of our mouth.”
The real estate board has done considerable polling through Ipsos, the results of which seem to corroborate Palmer’s claims.
“Most people support missing middle housing, but when you frame the question as where it should go, you get the ‘not in my backyard’ response,” said Palmer. “Almost 59% oppose high-rise condos within a kilometer of where they live, and even with detached homes, you still get 30% opposed.”
The consequence of NIMBYism is a pusillanimous political class unwilling to ruffle their constituencies’ feathers. That partly impelled the Ontario Real Estate Association and Ontario Home Builders’ Association to call on the Doug Ford government last week to implement as-of-right zoning around 200 transit hubs so development occurs at a faster pace. The two associations also funded a report by the Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development to demonstrate that transit nodes are woefully underutilized.
“Far too often, local politicians, whether in Toronto or other cities, are more concerned with existing residents than they are about new residents who want to move in, and as a result NIMBYism can grind everything to a halt,” said Tim Hudak, CEO of OREA. “I worry if we wait for municipalities to up-zone transit hubs, we’ll be talking about colonizing Mars for housing before we get that done, and that’s why we’re calling on the Ford government to look at these 200 stations and mandate as-of-right zoning to allow for intensification and more housing for those who need it.”
Hudak notes that homeownership rates are falling and would-be first-time buyers are stuck in mom and dad’s basement.
“I put it down to there being not enough political courage to make necessary decisions that would allow more millennials to find a place to call home,” he said. “Too often, red tape and battles with NIMBYs results in projects getting delayed for years and years or even getting cancelled.”