Transit commuters have limited housing options: CMHC

by Neil Sharma on 23 Feb 2021

Transit commuters in the GTA aren’t being served with adequate housing starts compared to Montreal and Vancouver, says a new study from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

“What patterns are we seeing from the transit analysis in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver?” asks the crown corporation’s report. “First there are clearly two patterns. First, the apartment boom in the apartment boom in the active core fuelled by the growth in white-collar service activities downtown and the surge of people seeking an urban lifestyle. Second, suburbanization pushed more families into auto suburbs and exurban areas. Conversely, transit suburbs saw the lowest average of completions in the Toronto CMA. An explanation is the fact that transit suburbs are often located in the 5-15 km range in which there are fewer incentives to build tall apartment buildings when compared to central areas.”

In fact, Toronto has built a lot of new housing within its core in the form of condominiums and purpose-built rental apartment buildings over the last three decades, and while housing starts decline in the 5-15 km area—as they do in Montreal and Vancouver, as well—they begin increasing, albeit slightly, 10-20 km away from the core. Twenty to 30 km away from the TTC network, housing starts to rise drastically.

“Like Montréal, Toronto has experienced urban sprawl with a high level of housing development in remote suburbs,” said the report. “However, Toronto has also seen a boom in housing construction in its active core. Urban sprawl is more limited in Vancouver, as this CMA has a relatively stable level of construction in its urban areas.”

The study speculates that the reason for diminished construction activity 5-10 km out of Toronto’s core is because there are fewer available single-family lots, unlike in the suburbs farther afield, and hardly any incentives to build tall high-density housing is because there aren’t any employment modes.

“In central areas (within five km), completions are relatively high in Toronto and Vancouver. This strong activity is mainly supported by condominium apartment buildings located in their respective downtown.”

Moreover, wealthier Torontonians live further away from the city core where many work, extending their commute times in the process.

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