How Toronto's housing market has changed in the last decade: report

Jan 8 2020, 1:32 pm

As we embark on the journey forward into a new decade, we are also reflecting on the previous one.

Social Planning Toronto, a non-profit, charitable community organization that works to improve equity, social justice and quality of life throughout the city, has released a report that analyzes the details of Toronto’s housing market over the last 10 years.

Affordable housing is essential and, as the numbers below show, precarious.

According to the report, lack of access to affordable housing disproportionately affects newcomers, Indigenous communities, racialized groups, lone mother-led families, the LGBTQ community, younger adults, seniors, low-income residents, and people with disabilities, mental health issues, and addictions.

The summary of the report’s housing section calls out the government for not adequately investing in affordable housing, including various forms of social and supportive housing and related supports.

Describing the absence of rent control on vacant and newly-constructed units as one reason behind soaring rental costs, the study also notes the issues of “financialized housing.” That is, “permitting housing to be used as an investment vehicle to generate wealth rather than provide for human need,” which also leads to high prices.

Reportedly, data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s annual Rental Market Survey show that between 2010 and 2018, rents rose by 39.8% for bachelor units, 33.7% for 1-bedrooms, 31.6% for 2-bedrooms, and 23.6% for 3+ bedrooms on average.

The inflation rate over the same period of time was 13.62%.

The report says that in October 2018, average monthly rents in Toronto were $1,089 for a bachelor unit, $1,270 for a 1-bedroom, $1,494 for a 2-bedroom, and $1,674 for a 3+ bedroom. Toronto’s average “asking rents” are significantly higher, however.

Rental housing search website PadMapper, for example, reportedly showed the December 2019 average asking rent for the Toronto area was $2,300 for a 1-bedroom and $3,000 for a 2-bedroom.

Social Planning Toronto

In addition, vacancy rates for available rental units have rarely reached the “healthy” rate of 3-5% over the last decade. As of late, vacancy rates are 1.6% for bachelor units, 1.2% for 1-bedrooms, 0.9% for 2-bedrooms, and 1.2% for 3+ bedrooms.

Commonly, rental housing “affordability” is gauged based on the percentage of income a household spends on shelter costs. Almost half of tenant households spent 30% or more of their income on shelter costs (47% in 2006 and 46.8% in 2016).

Over one in five spent 50% or more (22.9% in 2006 and 23.3% in 2016), which puts individuals at risk for homelessness.

The imbalanced allocation of income towards rent is due to the high cost of living and low, stagnant wages of renters in Toronto, the study explains.

Social Planning Toronto

The document also says that over the last 10 years, the number of households on Toronto’s social housing waiting list has grown by nearly 52%, from 72,876 in early 2010 to 110,677 in early 2019.

Similarly, Toronto’s supportive housing waiting list has — based on the most recent available data — almost quadrupled, with 13,645 individuals on the list in 2017 compared to 3,574 in 2011.

Those on this waiting list, the document says, are some of the most vulnerable people in the community. In addition to affordable housing, many also require supports for mental health and addiction issues. Most of them are homeless.

Social Planning Toronto

Shelter use has also increased dramatically over the last decade, the study states. The average number of individuals per night staying in a shelter increased by between 27.2% and 40%, varying by quarter, for singles.

And for families, the average number of individuals per night staying in a family shelter was more than three times higher in 2019 than it was in 2010.

Social Planning Toronto

In addition to housing, the report also shows data for public transit, cycling, and walking, and child care.

Highlights from those sections include — but aren’t limited to — a doubling of pedestrian deaths from 2010 to 2019, while over 1,100 people were hit by vehicles in 2019 alone.

Additionally, 129 cyclists were “doored” in 2019, and 17,282 children are awaiting a subsidized child care space.