Mobility Network presents ‘The Way Forward: Moving and housing multitudes in the Toronto region’

Mobility Network presents ‘The Way Forward: Moving and housing multitudes in the Toronto region’

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Okay, let's get going. Welcome everybody, I'm Judy Farvolden, Managing Director of Mobility Network and it's my pleasure to welcome you to the fourth session of The Way Forward in 2023. Before we start, I wish to acknowledge this land in which the University of Toronto operates. For

thousands of years it has been the traditional land of Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land. This event is being recorded and will be shared. Mobility Network at the School of Cities is an Institutional Strategic Initiative at the University of Toronto. Two years ago, U of T recognized that the sustainable movement of people and goods is a global challenge that can only be addressed by a cross-disciplinary collaboration among University researchers and further, through collaboration with the public and partners in industry and government.

Mobility Network, a group of about 70 researchers from across U of T's three campuses whose diverse interests span the broad scope of critical issues about mobility is the University of Toronto's answer to that grand challenge. We've organized that broad perspective into seven knowledge clusters, of course everything is connected to everything else, but this organizing principle shows our focus on key challenge areas like equity and inclusion, land use and economy, climate change and health, emerging new mobility technologies and services, and let's not forget freight and urban goods movement. We wrap that in the green circle to remind ourselves that tansportation mobility and access is about people, about who they are and the needs and wants they have and that needs and wants that generate their demand for travel.

And, that's wrapped in an outer circle that reminds us solutions must work within the constraints of our natural environment, our built environment, and our governance environment. Welcome to the fourth of six plan panels that will run every other week until mid-June. This session is titled 'Moving and housing multitudes in the Toronto region' and that with that I'll pass it off to Professor Chris Higgins, our moderator. The chat has been set up for you to send your questions directly to the moderator. Please use this chat to send your questions to Chris. Chris. over to you. Thank you, Judy and welcome

everybody. Thanks for coming up this afternoon. Getting some feedback. That's good, all right here we go. I'm Chris Higgins, I'm Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Toronto Scarborough and my research focuses on the relationship between form and function in cities with the interest in mobility and accessibility, real estate and land value, uplift value capture housing and neighbourhood change. I am leading the land use and economy cluster of the Mobility Network and today, I'm moderating this panel that we put together on moving and housing multitudes in the Toronto region.

The key motivating factors here are that Ontario is faced with a shortage of housing and that needs to be met with dwellings of many types and affordability options. In 2022, for example, the first for the first time in Canadian history the population of Canada increased by more than a million people, many of whom will decide to call the Toronto region home and that's only the beginning. We've had big forecasts for growth in the in Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) over the next 10 years; we need to accommodate millions of homes that need to get built for for people that are going to come to the region, the pressure is really only going to continue to grow. To that end, our three panelists are here to bring together their perspectives to a discussion about where and how should we plan housing to safeguard equitable access to the region's opportunities. They're each going to take a few minutes to bring the perspectives to this discussion. Then, I'll moderate a panel discussion and we'll take some questions from the group and as a reminder that the chat is sent to come to me directly, so that I I'll see the questions in them pose them when the time comes to the the discussions.

I'll introduce each of the panelists in turn, but first up is Nate. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at the Rotman School of Management and he holds the Premier's Research Chair in Productivity and Competitiveness. He has research interests in urban and real estate economics, labor economics, and economic geography. His recent research includes studies about housing supply and affordability and the causes and consequences of neighbourhood change.

Very excited that today Nate is going to talk about what is known about urban housing housing supply and transportation in U.S and Canadian cities and the broad challenges associated with coping with that robust demand for housing that we see currently. I'll pass it off to Nate. Great, so thanks a lot for the introduction Chris. I want to talk a bit about kind of where we stand in the GTA in terms of housing provision and affordability and what the prospects are for the future and what sorts of policy challenges and opportunities we face in those regards and partly that also I want to mix in a bit kind of where accessibility and transport enters in here. One way of thinking about where Toronto is and Vancouver too today is kind of cities in transition, right. There's very

rapid demand growth for living in the GTA. A lot of that has to do with immigration, but also just the fact that the economy is shifting towards high-skilled services and that's the sort of thing that Toronto does it's an industry that Toronto is very strong in and there's very robust demand growth by firms to hire workers living in Toronto and and naturally a lot of sort of high-skilled and high-income people looking to move to the GTA as a result. Yet, the GTA, like many cities in North America, most cities in North America was built up as a city of single-family homes and that means that it's very hard to densify and practice. Once you have neighbourhoods built up as single family homes, there's a lot of resistance densification even as demand growth is such that if you were to build a new, developers would choose to build condos and apartments and people would prefer to buy condos and apartments because they would be more affordable because essentially you'd be buying less housing. Instead, in a lot of neighbourhoods, most neighbourhoods in GTA were stuck with a situation where in order to get into that neighbourhood you got to buy a whole single family home and the condos that are available are mostly brand new or very recently built and new housing also tends to be more expensive than older housing and that presents an affordability challenge. I think you

know a big part of this is the fact that if you were to build Toronto from scratch, you would want to build it as a lot of high density apartments and condos, but in practice what's here is neighbourhoods of single family homes and and that just makes it very expensive and you look at sort of the world cities that are similar to the sort of city that Toronto is turning into you know New York, Tokyo, Paris, and London. Cities like that, they're dominated by both expensive housing and much smaller housing units than what we have in Toronto. Now the pandemic has given maybe a little bit of space on this because what the pandemic did was increase demand for kind of less accessible housing, you could say with the rise of work from home people, now are happier to live farther from work farther out in the suburbs and that's increased demand for space some, but in the neighbourhoods where you're even more likely to have single-family homes.

I think we see maybe a little bit of reversal now on that and the housing market is starting to turn around a bit, but nevertheless remains quite expensive and I think you know if we continue with the rates of immigration, we've experienced in the past year which is what the government seems to have in mind. For Canada, we should only expect at some point affordability challenges to to only get worse again from where they are now. In this environment where land use planning is very hard to change and it's very hard to identify, I think there's clearly this recognition now from various levels of government that this is a challenge and that's moving in the right direction, but it's going to take a long time to densify the city and I'm very confident that neighbourhoods that are built up with single family homes today are not going to see a lot of densification just the local opposition is too strong. The the big issue is you know land development available for development is scarce and maybe new land that's being developed can be developed more densely. We'll hear about the Downsview

airport site later today and I think that's a great opportunity and in some sense Toronto is fairly lucky to have a few sites like this that can be developed since from more or less from scratch in residential that many other cities don't have. One of the policy challenges is to make sure that that development goes in a way that improves the affordability of the city. Now that does not mean that the new housing that's built has to be affordable I would argue, okay. There's a lot of consternation about all these new condo towers going up that uh with units that are selling for almost a million dollars, I can understand the reason for the that sort of consternation, but the thing to remember is that the people buying those units and any new units that are built. First of all, they have to pay a high enough price to justify the development of those units and that price point tends to be sort of in the unaffordable range, but second of all, they free up units lower down the sort of housing quality distribution for lower income people to move into. One of the things that I think a lot of cities have gotten wrong is kind of forcing a lot of so-called affordable housing to be built at the expense of building more new housing overall because as you build more new housing overall you do you have more opportunity for that lower quality lower less expensive housing to become available for lower income people who benefit the most from from lower housing prices.

uThere's there's some good recent research that kind of points to this. I think another sort of policy challenge and opportunity is how we make essentially more land available for development by improving the transportation network. One of the one of the things that I've experienced a lot in Toronto is sitting in traffic and the extent to which accessibility downtown is important I think has come back some since the pandemic and they're making areas accessible to employment centres either through better management of the road system or through improved transit access to densely developed locations is something that the government can do to essentially expand housing supply and improve affordability at the same time as encouraging dense construction.

I think this setting is really appropriate because I see land use planning and the the zoning regime as being inextricably linked to the transport regime and because the demand for locations comes primarily from the accessibility the location has and if there's a way to improve accessibility to locations that are kind of somewhat near to the places people want to go like downtown Toronto then, that's a way of making more land available for development and ultimately improving housing affordability some combination of that and also allowing the city to accommodate more residents and accommodate the population pressures that Canada is facing. That's kind of my opening statement and I look forward to hearing from the others about their perspectives. Excellent, thank you Nate. Next up is Tara and Tara is an economic geographer, an associate professor in The Institute for Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is Director of its Master of Urban Innovation program.

Tara's research focuses on the dynamics of innovation economic development labor markets and technological change in cities and our most recent work explores the relationship between housing affordability and economic development. Today, Tara will talk about the largely ignored economic development side of housing and the need for programs policies are activities to improve the economic well-being quality of life for our community. I'll pass it over to you. All right, thank you Chris and thank you everyone for attending and I'm delighted to speak today. As Chris mentioned a lot of my work does in fact look at the intersection between housing and economic development certainly the more recent work does that, but I want to do so in a way that makes sure we don't lose sight of the questions of equity and affordability in doing so and that of course, lends itself to thinking through some of the kinds of interventions that governments at all levels can sort of facilitate to ensure that because the where of housing affordability and the of the availability of that housing matters so left to its own devices. The market

May, in fact through the process is described by name squeeze lower income people out of the places where they in fact they most need to live which is close to Transit. That's one of the things I want to sort of have in the back of our minds as I sort of you know talk us through that. Certainly, the premise of this presentation panel is to think about the you know the challenge at Ontario and particularly, the Toronto region and faces in terms of both population growth driven primarily by immigration in this region. There is in fact out migration amongst people who are living in this region, but the growth comes primarily from from immigration, we kind of think about the swaths of those you know and the characteristics demographic and otherwise, of those groups of people and also, unprecedented housing affordability challenges and I would sort of remark two things. First, this is not a new problem in Toronto or in Ontario, although albeit it is a worsening situation for many families and two, it's not a unique problem and Nate alluded to this as well these very similar affordability challenges are faced by cities in North America and around the world and the particulars of and contours of those challenges are really shaped by the policy environment and the decisions made by both the public and the private sector. In fact,

in today's New York Times there's an article about the exodus of of college educated people exiting the US's largest cities partly induced by the pandemic because of affordability challenges, so the affordability issue is not just for people in the lowest income brackets, but in fact creeping up through even sort of higher middle, higher income groups as well. When we think about housing and its relationship to economic development we recognize one that housing is in fact a sector that drives economic development right. It's a sector into itself at the real estate industry that creates jobs and and generates wealth for the for the community or the city, we think about it in terms of housing as an indicator of the health and wealth of a region we think about that a lot that certainly comes out of the view that that Nate sort of is described in his opening remarks about sort of how you see housing prices as being high that might in fact indicate that a place is doing really well, but we also think about housing as an important dimension of quality of life as an amenity that attracts both you know people who are participating in the knowledge economy and others to enjoy their neighbourhood and their community. And, the real risk in all of this of course is that as housing prices rise, there's displacement and gentrification issues at play and those are the ones when we really want to think about the affordability question that we really need to focus on a little bit.

As I said, the particular shape and expression of housing affordability is really shaped by decades now of policy decision and sometimes policy indecision and then investments made both by the public and the private sectors, choices about what types of development are prioritized, choices about what kinds of housing is built or not built, that sort of shift primarily to condos, so for you know that accommodate one to two people in the downtown, automatically forces out potentially larger family units or multi-generational families and they're again maybe potentially shifting those families into positions where they cannot access transit or other kinds of amenities schooling being another one of those things. And, whether there's supportive infrastructure in place and amenities and for me, supportive infrastructure is of course Transit and thinking about the mobility piece of that that's highly important, but it's also social infrastructure schooling, healthcare, child care, things that allow for people to participate fully in the economy which is you know a thing that we would all want to see and a lot of this comes from seeing housing is only in simply a market good rather than as a social good as well. From that perspective, we can see affordability can be staved off by just increasing housing supply, but that's a really deceptively simple solution and answer to the question of housing affordability. It's not just more housing, but rather where that housing is, what kinds of housing are included, what else needs to be in place the amenities and infrastructure I just alluded to what policy levers can be pulled what models are helpful, what are the consequences if we build in particular ways the intended or unintended consequences I'm going to talk a little bit about that in terms of mixed use for a lot of my more recent work on housing is focused on and really, what kind of city or region? Do we want where we push people who are in lower income brackets out to the edges of the city or in fact, we want a vibrant city that allows for more complete set of communities and I think the Downsview example might address some of those issues and we'll hear more about that in a minute. When we think about zoning, zoning is one of the tools that planners have in their toolkit to address these issues, we just saw a very lively debate over the shift from single-family housing to the allowance for multiplexes across the city of Toronto it's going to be a marginal, well it will shift only marginally I think the ability to densify in those communities, but might in fact start to allow for some missing of what we call missing mental housing, but mixed use itself on its own our evidence suggests in Toronto won't necessarily address affordability issues. Yes, it absolutely reduces sprawl and reduces automobile use, it can enhance active transportation if especially when well placed beside public transit. Yes, it can generate

high quality communities and vibrant neighbourhoods and it can in fact increase economic development, but it might not and factor evidence says it does not preserve housing affordability especially for lower income individuals and especially in the absence of other kinds of policy instruments, so the active intervention of government to in fact ensure proportions of housing is maintained or provided in a more affordable way. I think there are some other models in that the government can, local government particularly can introduce to ensure that peace and that's where that completeness comes in is actually allowing for high quality housing for people in lower income brackets alongside appropriately sized housing for people across income brackets as well and so, here I think it's important for us to recognize that you know developments need to also think about other kinds of models of ownership whether they be land trusts or cooperative housing and also interventions such as you using two of their best you know to the best extent possible things like inclusionary zoning requiring developers to include below market rent units and things like actually using existing tools like we have already like density bonus to their fullest which can include things like affordability clauses which aren't used very much at the moment, but I think would allow for you know a more fullsome set of availability housing affordability. Sorry, just tripping over my words. Using those kinds of policy instruments would allow for more affordable units to be available in the right places close to transit, places that often get just where those things actually get pushed out despite our best attempts to do otherwise and I'll stop there, Chris.

Great, thank you very much. Okay, next up our third speaker Derek Goring who is Executive Vice President of Development at Northcrest Developments where he's responsible for master planning the Downsview Airport Lands project he has 20 years of experience in real estate development with a focus on large-scale master plan developments in the GTA and has had the opportunity to work on some of Toronto's most important city building projects. For many years Derek's been actively involved with The Urban Land Institute and today he's stepping away from the big UlI spring conference at the conference centre to talk about the Downsview project with us as an example of how solutions are trying to be applied in practice.

I'll pass over to you Derek. Derek, you got some slides, are you going to share your screen? Yeah, I'll share in a second. Thanks, Chris and as the non-U of T person on the panel, I am a U of T alumni, so I know the secret handshake. Happy to be here and share my thoughts, in fact, a lot of my comments really build on what Tara was saying and what I'm going to try to present is to use Downsview a bit of a case study to show a way that the idea is the Tara outline can be implemented in practice.

The theme that I really wanted to focus on is about taking a holistic approach to this challenge and I think that's the one takeaway from my comments it would be that is you know these are really complicated urban challenges and you really can't look at them in isolation because they are interconnected and sometimes by taking a focused or narrow approach to some of these challenges, you can actually be making counterproductive decisions and I think it was already referenced by Nate earlier, a very simplistic example of that is you know people move far away from the city to get cheaper housing, but then they spend more of their time and dollars on transportation costs and governments have a higher infrastructure burden, so we're not actually getting further ahead and I'm gonna just really quickly show a couple of slides about Downsview just to provide context for some of the comments that I'm going to be making. I'm going to share my screen. Northcrest is a real estate development company and we spend all our time focused on the Downsview airport redevelopment. This is a map showing the site in the context of the GTA and as you can see it's sort of right smacked up in the middle of the greater Toronto area. The yellow lines are the major highways, the red lines are the subway network and we've highlighted the green line here which is the Barrie Go Corridor which runs right through the site.

This is primarily for context for those less familiar with the site and where it is in Toronto, but it's also gives a sense of the scale and size of the site between Downsview Park which is already there and all of the land in purple which is the development land it's about 800 acres of land which is about the same size as the downtown and the boundaries of the site Shepherd at the North and Wilson at the South is about the same distance from Bloor to Front Street in the downtown. Northcrest is responsible for the lands shown in green which is the Downsview airport lands we PSP purchased these lands from Bombardier in 2018. PSP is the pension fund that owns these lands and owns Northcrest, we're a subsidiary of PSP. PSP is the pension fund responsible for the pensions of the federal civil servicem the armed forces, and the RCMP.

The lands in purple are owned by Canada Lands Company and those are development lands which are adjacent to Downsview Park and so, together the lands of purple and green represent about 520 acres of development land which are being master planned as we speak collaboration between ourselves and CLC. You can see the subway stations and the line right next to us, but the next slide shows that even though we are right next to these three subway stations, the site is so big we still have a last mile challenge to overcome in terms of ensuring that everyone can have really convenient and safe access to that public transit infrastructure. The Downsview Park station is the multimodal station that also has a GO train service and this is just a really high level preliminary masking diagram that shows the overall development over the 30-year build out. We're expecting and planning for about 40,000 jobs and over 80,000 new residents coming to this part of the city. Essentially, dropping a mid-sized Ontario city right in the middle of the GTA, but leveraging all of that existing public transit infrastructure. I just wanted to share that context because a lot of my comments are specifically talking about how we're taking a lot of the ideas and the theories that are outlined and putting them into practice at Downsview and it's a very unique situation to have such a large site in a very urban area already connected to existing infrastructure.

Starting with you know that broad idea of affordability obviously housing is a critical part of the affordability challenge, it's most people's single largest line item in their budget and we do have an affordable housing crisis. Starting with that, one of the things that we're doing is ensuring we have a range of housing options and that includes a bunch of different elements. One is about 10 years, so a mix of rental housing and ownership housing; it's about the types of units so a mix of small, medium, and large units that accommodate lots of different types of families over time as well as addressing different income levels and ensuring that there's both affordable ownership, affordable rental, market rental, and market ownership and ensuring that they're the services are in place to support all the different types of families that will be there over time from young children to seniors.

The second important part of this is transportation and transportation is usually the second largest item in people's budgets so, by thinking about how we can reduce the need for private vehicles and the development of Downsview, we can further reduce the cost of living and improve affordability generally. That partly means really actively addressing that last mile challenge and importantly not just for people, but also the movement of goods increasingly important in urban environments is ensuring that package delivery can happen in a way that doesn't clog up the roads and the infrastructure is well thought out to facilitate that and making walking and cycling safe, convenient, and easy for people, in fact, easier than using private vehicles and that is the biggest driver of of walkability and and cycling in urban environments, but if you are successful in doing that you can build less parking. Ff you build less parking, you reduce the cost of the buildings in the first place. It

reduces the time it takes to build the buildings, it reduces the carrying costs of units both whether it's a rental or ownership so, you can further reduce the cost of living in a particular neighbourhood if you can build less parking, but you can't build less parking unless you provide people with better options for how to get around. Next is amenities and this was touched on as well so, in order to be able to have a walkable environment, it's not just about having sidewalks and bike lanes, it's about ensuring that the things people want to go to are within walking distance and cycling distance of where they live and work and that just doesn't happen by accident and but, it doesn't usually happen at all. Most of the time in real estate development projects, the developer built some retail and they just think about it as a space that needs to be rented and you know whoever comes first or whoever's willing to pay the highest rent goes into that retail space. We're trying to take a much more active approach to ensuring that in in the neighbourhoods that we're building, we're actively working to figure out what are the daily needs that people need and ensuring that those amenities and services are actually going to be located in the spaces that we're building. That may mean that we're not always optimizing the rent of that retail space, but retail represents less than five percent of the total development and if we can create really great successful places that people really want to live and work, the theory is that will generate overall value for the project. Our

primary objective is generating returns for the pensioners that PSP is responsible for, but they take a long-term view so, if we can create overall value we don't always have to be isolating individual assets and optimizing them because that doesn't always optimize the overall value of these neighbourhoods. It's important to note the density is an important driver of making that make sense economically. Retailers are not going to be successful and they're not going to come to these spaces if there's not enough critical mass of people that are going to buy the goods and services being sold in these retail spaces. The

amount of density per square foot or per acre that we build in these places is unnecessary precondition to these complete communities where people can have access to all their daily needs within walking or cycling distance. Next is about jobs and businesses so, you know creating economic opportunities for people to live and work in close proximity to each other and even thinking about how matching housing affordability and the jobs that are created in a particular place to facilitate and encourage people living and working in close proximity. We're not forcing anyone to do anything it's about giving people options and choices, but it really true mixed use is about ensuring that there's jobs close to where people live, not just about putting retail in the base of residential buildings. Stepping back a little bit further, really it's about creating higher quality of life and prevent promoting health and wellness and in addition, to what I've already mentioned it's about convenient access to other types of amenities some of which Tara mentioned already parks, schools, community facilities, child care, health care. These are again things that you have to actively work to locate strategically that they're accessible and convenient to the people living and working there and again, that doesn't happen by accident and most developers don't have the critical mass in one place to even wrap their heads around how you would go about doing this, but because we are going to be working on this site for the next 30 years, we're collaborating closely with governments, nonprofits, and other stakeholders to find creative solutions to ensuring that these things are delivered, not just delivered, but delivered in a timely way so, that they're there in the early stages of development so that people can have access to them when they first move in 20 or 30 years down the road.

We're also investing in social capital which is really about relationships, sense of community, and the building of trust amongst people in a place. That improves resiliency, it improves safety improves mental health and that quality of life. This is something that really got highlighted during the pandemic some communities were much more resilient and withstood the pandemic more than others and a lot of that was around you know how well you knew your neighbours and did you have friends in the neighbourhood that you can rely on still, spend time with, and be outside. Those are important

things you know even post-pandemic because you never know what shock is going to come next and we really want to create these resilient communities. It's also about encouraging things like volunteerism and opportunities for people to connect to each other through social interactions and that's another important function of parks, it's not just about access to green space, but it's where people can mingle and get to know each other better. Then, economic development thinking about social procurement, local workforce development programs, so that people from equity deserving groups can have access to some of the economic opportunities that get created through developments like this. Finally, things like accessibility are integral to creating welcoming and and inclusive places and more broadly, we're applying an equity and inclusion lends to the way we do development to ensure that that this is a place that's welcoming for everyone. It's about actively

engaging local communities including equity deserving groups whose voices are not typically heard in the development process and ensuring that the input that they have, the things that they're looking for, the things that are important to them are actually delivered as part of these new large-scale projects. Ultimately, all these things are important they're all interconnected, but we need to measure them and we're going through a process of creating metrics and targets on these things to track them over time and report on them probably to hold ourselves accountable and partly to be able to demonstrate the benefits of taking this approach. Downsview has the scale and we because of the the nature of our owner have a long-term perspective to consider how all these things can work together which is quite unique. This idea of of creating a complete community and we have the scale to be able to do that on the lands that we are responsible for. Most individual

developments don't and governments actually don't have the amount of control that they would need to be able to do this. They have some levers that they can fold, but a lot of the things that I talked about today are not within the controller government so, it's kind of an interesting and unique situation that we're really trying to demonstrate how things can be done differently. That's the high level overview and the practice implications or approach that we're trying to take to some of these challenges that have been identified and happy to get into the discussion. Great, thank you Derek. Thank you to all the panelists for that overview and we can jump right into some questions now and a reminder for other participants if you have a question feel free to post it in the chat and it will come to me. Sort of start at a high level, just taking a lot of notes from everyone's talks that it just seems like we have a lot of really big key challenges to address. Again,

starting at a high level, what do you think the region will look like in 10 years, maybe in an ideal sense of how it should look versus maybe what we'll realize, but this is just key challenges about getting housing built where and how that housing gets built densifying, but how to make that density livable and drawing on from from Nate's comments? For example, how to make that development accessible as well like is this the challenge, are we up to this challenge in the region and just a general question before I jump into specific ones, but anyone? I guess, I could maybe start off so I thought what Derek said was really interesting and maybe is kind of the exception that proves the rule that what you have in the Downsview airport site is the opportunity to kind of optimize in lots of ways that we can't in most other situations, right? Where we know from a policy perspective that it makes a lot of sense to densify this neighbourhood say I'm say the DuPont Corridor, for example, which I see every day coming to work and yet, then you have all these independent developers building there and having to interface with various other levels of government whether it be Metrolinx and the city and the railroad or other you know all these other landowners and each other to try to generate a high amenity neighbourhood that's going to generate the demand that is high enough to justify building that in the first place at the same time as managing the interests of the incumbent residents nearby that will face the extra traffic congestion and the crowding in the schools and all the negative things that come with densification. You in the Downsview airport site can kind of can can fix all those problems because you have control over everything and that's really great and you know it's kind of this is what shopping mall developers do too right they have the anchor store that they basically give free rent to and that allows them to maximize the value of the of the place by the shoppers that are drawn in through the anchor stores. Most development that's gonna have that's gonna have to happen to densify the city and accommodate the additional population demand growth for the city can't happen that way, so I think from a policy standpoint we got to think about who's going to be coordinating everybody to try to achieve these same goals when there are so many different interest groups involved and I think the Ontario government is actually kind of trying to do this, but they make a lot of enemies and in order to really do this effectively you got to be pretty heavy-handed.

I don't know if there's a good example of where that's actually happened anywhere in the world maybe in China actually there's been some examples, but there are some people that are definitely hurt pretty badly by going in and completely clearing out a neighbourhood which is what they've done in big Chinese cities and basically saying to people okay you can come back in five years, we'll give you some temporary housing and we're going to densify this, right. Like that's just maybe off the table for for Canada, but to really densify and make Toronto look like Shanghai, that's what the sort of thing you'd have to do I think. Can make a couple comments in response to your question Chris, one is that I think adding lots of supply of housing is necessary, but insufficient to solve the problem I saw a couple stats recently about how Canada has among the lowest rates of government housing in the OECD like something like five percent or four percent of all housing is somehow subsidized by the government and in European countries and and other places in the world where it's much higher and regardless of how much housing we build, again it is necessary for us to to build a lot of housing, but if we don't, if the government doesn't invest in more housing, we're never going to address that the bottom end of the market is just not enough supply that we can create to do that. Second, thing I would say is even if we could find the places to build and the policies were in place, we actually don't have the capacity in the industry to deliver substantially more housing than we have been delivering over the past a couple of decades. Right now there's more housing units under construction than there ever have been and we're still way way below the supply targets that we're talking about and all the contractors, all the engineers, all the architects everyone's working flat out up until very recently due to things like interest rates, but we need to actually find a better way of delivering housing and to me the only way that we're going to get there is through adopting innovations that allow us to build more quickly, more efficiently, and less expensive, so there's some really interesting emerging technologies in terms of the automation industrialization of construction which I think are critically important and the only way we're going to get to the solutions that we need.

Give changes to the to building codes even like the two staircase. That would help, but I actually don't think building code is the problem either these technologies are being built and deployed based on existing building codes. yTara do you want to weigh in? I wanted to weigh in on the sort of the comment that Nate made about you know the shopping mall model and someone reminded me very hopefully I might add that you know while the airport itself in the Downsview case is this very unique opportunity and you know it was really great to hear certain Derek layout the the various layers and the intentionality behind the sort of development of it, there are probably smaller sites still not still not airport size, but not single you know not a single plot of land where that those kinds of models could be applied and my colleagues sort of pointed to you know those sort of either the strip malls that are in sort of low lower density not built up parts of this you know the suburban fabric of the Toronto region that would be sort of one potentially.

Some of these car dealerships other places where there's you know potentially not the highest and best use of existing suburban land where you know you're not clearing out single-family homes to replace you know with with some other kind of model development, but there might actually be some really creative ways to use some of our existing land base that may not be being optimized the way it could be without encroaching on employment land which isn't you know another thing that you know sort of we have to circle around and thinking about where we can identify or build additional developments. I've got my own last question and then, I'll switch the ones in the chat, but something I've long been thinking about is it's coming from political science before switching to geography and my planning specialty now, but I was curious about this intersection of housing and politics as we see it now and in a variety of different ways, but it's something that Nate brought up and Derek brought up as well. A lot of people derive their wealth from housing as an investment and in that sense they might be focused on the short-term maximization of those individual assets to to gain wealth, but that sort of comes at odds with a need to do more coordinated types of planning beyond the Downsview site like Nate was saying of how do we encourage good growth beyond Downsview into Toronto's neighbourhoods or other neighbourhoods around the region.

It came up in some research we're doing where we know quite a bit about integrated transportation and land use planning, but how do we tell those stories better that they get enacted at the policy level and they get broader public support like how do we tell neighbourhoods that if you think longer term beyond the maximization of your individual asset that we can make a better community and and grow your wealth over a longer time frame not unlike what Derek was saying of how they approach the Downsview development? I think what you're asking Chris and what the big issue is people's confidence in government right to be as good at optimizing as single developer like Northcrest could be and there's lots of reasons why we might think you know government; various levels of government have been captured by interest groups that mean that will not happen and I think then, it's you know anytime you allow a big development to happen in your neighbourhood, you're taking a risk that things are going to change for the worse and you're putting the your faith in people to regulate this and and keep eyes on it that maybe you know don't have the neighbourhood's best interest in mind so, it's not surprising that people in single family home neighbourhoods tend to be against development nearby, you've got to convince them somehow that that development is going to make their neighbourhood higher amenity. I think Tara is right that that the these sort of sprawl repair, opportunities might be the best way way forward there in that. People don't like having a strip mall next to their house either and maybe densifying that making it housing with maybe a little park or something is one way of of having that happen and and having the land use planning and zoning regime encourage that might be something government can do that's a little bit hands-off to help that sort of thing happen. I know that question falling flat just how do we convince neighbourhoods to densify as really the core of it, but we don't know. I see a lot of times straightforward answer.

Here's an interesting one about affordability in the region and policy leavers. How how much do tax regimes impact affordability in the price of land and that it comes up often of things like a land value tax? Is that in any way any kind of a solution that could be weighed to one of the toolkits? Absolutely. There's there's public information about this, so I'm not saying anything that isn't out there already, but about a third of the cost of a new unit of housing is some form of government taxes or fees. Now the provinces tried to do things as something that Nate was referencing as an example, they've said you can't charge development charges for affordable housing units, but the reality is in the way the map works more of a whack-a-mole, so that if you take the development charge away from affordable housing it just pops up on the market housing, you're overall still charging the same amount of fees and you know that's not really a criticism, it's just a fact. Absolutely, that is one lever the governments have, but the reality is this is a you know I don't even know what the right you know it's billions or hundreds of billions I mean, it's a problem that kind of defies wrapping your head around because the cost of delivering just one unit of for of affordable housing in the absence of government intervention is hundreds of thousands of dollars so, you know in order to solve the problem it really is only the federal and provincial governments. The

city municipalities do not have the financial resources to really move the needle and up to now the provincial and federal governments have just not been willing to allocate the amount of dollars that are required to actually deliver significant amounts of affordable housing. I think there's another point about affordable housing that is a bit maybe not politically correct to say, but I'll say it anyways and that is that in order to provide a lot of affordable housing, it has to be lower quality than new housing because the cost of providing new housing is just high. Either you spend a lot of government money per unit doing it and you can't provide very many units as Derek just said or you kind of make developers build it and and ration it out to very few people and have excess demand of low-income people for these units. The only way to make good progress on this is to have a way of building housing that's cheaper which means lower quality in some way and that's just the way it is otherwise I don't think there's really any hope of solving the affordable housing issue, especially, in the city like Toronto with such rapid population growth where all the new market, all the new private developer housing is sort of by construction has to be oriented towards the higher income segment of the market can't be oriented towards lower income people because that wouldn't justify building it.

I wouldn't say I disagree, but I would add a caveat to what Nate said that is a you know I think the prevailing view, but I go back to my earlier comment about just finding a better way of delivering housing it is just too expensive to build a unit of housing regardless of whether it's market or affordable and it just shouldn't be that way. We dealt the same way that we have for the last 70 to 80 years. The there's lots of stats about how basically the construction and development sector of basically zero productivity gains over over that period of time. There needs to be a better way of delivering the units in the first place which should include faster, cheaper, better, but there isn't really a lot of investment being made in that. There are now some companies in that space which is really exciting, but one way governments could get involved is to actually help fund research and development into lowering the construction costs, improving the adoption technologies that will actually deliver all housing in a way that's faster, cheaper, and better. I do wanna jump in on a couple of things.

I was thinking a lot about this the sort of you know what's the role for the public sector and the public sector and government all three levels and and some of these extra agencies too are sometimes at odds with one another and we sort of think a step back a minute and forget about today and think about sort of the history on government involvement in housing which has really evolved and changed over time so, we think about some of the you know public or social housing or subsidized housing that was built at different points in time. It was built in places that made more sense from a sort of an accessibility to transit perspective and it was of a reasonable kind of quality which the argument being here is that that's not the possibility I don't want to get caught up in a discussion about the quality of housing, but I do want to get caught up in a conversation about what governments can and can't do. Sometimes governments are odds with itself and I'm thinking, we have colleagues at the University of Toronto are thinking a lot about social purpose real estate and there's a lot of public land in the city that's you know dedicated to various things whether it's providing municipal services, or community services, transit and in a lot of cases there is airspace above those that if redeveloped could be used for other things whether it's centralizing services or whether it's adding an affordable housing units. I know that

at the School of Cities, there's an initiative right now thinking about can we add affordable housing on top of a fire station that sounds like maybe way outside of most people's you know headspace and box, but in fact it is possible and they are doing it so, there are these smaller ways in which I think the public can intervene and support the development of affordable housing which may not undermine you know these other issues so, I think there is a possibility for quality, we don't have to sacrifice that, but I don't really want to go down that path, but I do think that there are other ways the public sector itself can be far more creative, both in in supporting the provision of affordable housing, being a partner in that, and also incenting the private sector to do so as well. Just to be clear when I say quality, I mostly mean size like square footage. I think we all agree that you've got to have you know washrooms and kitchens and things, but it's like if you look at where lower income people live, they live in older housing, and it's a challenge that Toronto doesn't have a lot of older housing because it's a relatively new city and that's hard. Thank you everyone, I'm going to pass to Judy just to wrap up because we've hit five o'clock already, but I just find these things are too short. Judy you're on mute. Start sharing your screen and funny things happen, right. Thanks

everybody for joining us and now it does goes quickly, but we know that you're very happy, so it's my job now to thank everybody. Thank you for coming, thanks for our panelists and we hope that we'll see everybody again. This was the fourth in a series exploring The Way Forward we'll be back in two weeks to talk about decarbonizing transportation and two weeks after that to talk about tackling congestion. You'll find all these advertised on our website, you'll get reminders if you subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter on the website and you can always find out more by contacting us, so let me just say once again, thank you everybody very much for joining us and we look forward to seeing you again. Thank you.

2023-06-07 08:44

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