While foreign demand does play a part in the surging price growth seen in Canada’s hottest markets, the executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute noted that the lack of supply is a more compelling reason—and pinpointed a specific factor behind the shortage.
“Toronto and Vancouver don’t need to suffer high housing costs. They suffer no shortage of land, they suffer a shortage of common sense and freedom,” Lawrence Solomon wrote in a contribution piece for the Financial Post
“City homes are expensive because politicians prevent available land from being intelligently developed or redeveloped,” he added.
Solomon, who also previously served as a vice chair of the City of Toronto Planning Board, suggested that Canadian cities can follow the examples set by Paris and London, both high-density, low-rise metropolitan areas.
“As an example, Toronto’s Annex district, one of the city’s leafiest and toniest, is also one of its densest – more than twice the density of Toronto as a whole, ten times the density of the Greater Toronto Area,” Solomon explained. “If Annex-level densities were to come to, say, Toronto’s large low-density Scarborough district, which is now neither as leafy nor as tony as the Annex, Toronto’s population of 2.6 million would increase by 40 per cent, an increase of over 1 million people.”
Reducing the government-instituted hoops that developers typically face is the best way to go about these developments.
“To accomplish that kind of transformation, not just in Scarborough but throughout Toronto, Vancouver or any other city, would require no subsidies, housing programs or other intervention by governments – to the contrary, it would require only that governments get out of the way, and let the city’s residents exercise the property rights they had a century ago,” Solomon wrote.
“Over time, the face of the city would change, bit by bit as each home owner did what came naturally, the effect generally being an increase in the quality and the quantity of the city’s built form, enlivening once-dreary neighbourhoods and increasing the number of people the same land could comfortably, even luxuriously, accommodate.”
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