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Background Info

The Know Your Vote T.O. “Big Issues” primers are meant to be starting points for readers to continue their own learning and investigating.

Note: The information sources documented and linked in the content below are from the City of Toronto website and well-known media and learning resources.

Where we live shapes our lives. What kind of housing is built, where, and how much it costs are all complicated questions. Here are three ways City Government plays a role in managing housing in Toronto.

1. City Government Approves Proposals for New Housing Development

City Government is responsible for approving or rejecting proposals for all new buildings, including houses, condos, and apartments. This process helps align everything that gets built in Toronto with the City’s Official Plan and zoning by-law, which are approved by City Council.

City Government considers many different things when making decisions about what can be built where. The city needs enough new houses, condos, and apartments to keep up with population growth and the demand for housing. But development can also bring challenges — it can change the character of neighbourhoods too quickly, or make it hard for schools, streets, water pipes, parks, and transit to meet the needs of all new residents.

The City Planning Division's website has a lot of information, including new building proposals, the City’s Official Plan, and the ways you can get involved in the planning process.

Facts about Housing Development in Toronto:

Though the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the housing development rate estimated in 2017, Toronto continues to experience growth. Occupied private dwellings in Toronto increased by 47,963 units between 2016 and 2021. This represents 4.3% growth since 2016, and is about double the population growth rate for the same period (Go to information source - PDF).

The cost of a home is rising. In 2017, the average house cost had risen to over $775,000. In 2022, the average price of a home in Toronto is now $1.3-million (Go to information source). Rental costs have also increased 15% year-over-year (Go to information source).

2. City Government Provides Community Housing

City Government provides housing assistance, often referred to as community, affordable, or social housing. Community housing offers rent support to people who need help paying their monthly rent. The main provider of community housing is the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, a non-profit solely owned by the City. Out other types of community housing also exist.

  • The City has a useful learning guide that explains all the ways they provide affordable housing.
  • This introductory report (PDF) from Toronto Metropolitan University defines "affordable housing" and offers other information.
  • The National Bank of Canada published this report (PDF) which compares housing price trends across major Canadian cities.

Facts about Community Housing in Toronto:

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is the largest community housing provider in Canada. It operates 2,100 buildings and houses 110,000 residents, about 4% of Toronto’s population (Go to information source - PDF).

Waitlists have been growing. More than 80,000 people are currently on a waitlist to receive some form of community housing support, up from nearly 79,000 people in 2021 (Go to information source - PDF).

3. City Government Operates Emergency Shelters

The City runs emergency shelters, which offer temporary beds to people who don’t have housing. The City has increased the number of emergency shelters due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Go to information source - PDF).

You can explore nightly occupancy rates for emergency shelters using this City of Toronto data resource.

Facts about Emergency Shelters in Toronto:

Demand has risen and shelters are often full (Go to information source). Between January and June 2022 on average 7,700 people used an emergency shelter bed per night, compared to 7,050 people in 2021 (Go to information source). On average, 40 people a night are turned away from shelters due to a lack of beds (Go to information source).

1,000 new shelter beds are being created in the next 3 years. During the 2018 budget process, Council approved funding to open 1,000 new shelter beds over the next three years. By 2024, approximately 785 of these beds will be complete (Go to information source - PDF).

Answers by Candidates for Mayor

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What should the next Mayor do about housing in Toronto? Why?


Darren Atkinson

Control rents on a building permit level so that developers are good corporate citizens and replace the same number of low cost units they tear down and first offer them to the current occupants. Create a surcharge to reflect the real financial headroom foreign investors receive - the spread between the US reserve dollar and ours. The Prov. charges 20% and we will charge the difference +10% - approx. 20%, to bolster budget funding and reduce pressure on TO real estate prices,. Continue the supportive housing initiative underway and expand it.


Chloe-Marie Brown

1.Establish a ban on the City Solicitor making any stylistic or technical changes to the Official Plan that undermines accessible, inclusive, or universal design, interfere with the creation of emergency and affordable housing options for Toronto's most vulnerable residents: youth, seniors, disabled, homeless, low-income families and individuals. 2.Create RentSmart system to replace RentSafeTO to manage legalizing rooming houses and all rentals, standardized agreements, centralize legal support, and create data driven housing policy


Drew Buckingham

There is no doubt that the lack of housing is a major concern for the citizens of Toronto. The dearth of affordable housing is going to have an adverse effect on child poverty in the city. There are children in this city that live in shelters and then go to school. That is seriously messed up. I worked as a teacher in inner city schools with the TDSB for a decade. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately. A plan needs to be put in place right now to deal with child poverty. Until then, everything else gets tabled.


Sarah Climenhaga

I want to lead with an attitude of "yes" when it comes to positive change. A culture of "yes" at City Hall can make it easier to make change. Giving residents, non profits, local business and developers more freedom to create housing is a priority so that the process from housing idea to actual housing is faster. We can protect ravines, parks, forests and water basins, while speeding up the process to create housing where it is allowed. Why? Because the status quo is leading to homelessness and urban sprawl.


Phillip D'Cruze

Housing will be an ongoing problems facing Torontonians for years to come. There are no overnight solutions. Condos are slow to build. The City must re-zone about unused land and and neglected retail land and build low-level apartment building-3 level, 4 level. Also add community centers and parks for children and their families to enjoy. Another temporary solution is to fill the hundreds of vacant apartment units in buildings in various wards. There are many empty houses the City can purchase to fill with people.


Cory Deville

The Housing Crisis within Toronto needs to be reimagined from the perspective of renters & not home owners, because the former group accounts for the majority. Our first step is to create a Renters Relief Program. Mandate that all buildings use light bulbs that are as energy efficient as is available on the market. Use the money saved from electricity output to create a renters relief rebate program. This program could then be the starting point for a monthly rebate program whereby government issues a cheque made payable to renters.


Isabella Gamk

Current homeless people should be in Supportive Housing for 2 yrs at least to deal with their addictions or mental health issues. 50 yrs of housing schemes don't actually work. We need housing built for not just our homeless but for future immigrants or refugees as well. Canadians should be Guaranteed, Constitutionally, Average Market Rent money by Postal Code. The Federal Government should invoke the Emergencies Measures act and build 20,000, 400 unit, average market rent rental apartment buildings across Canada in one go starting immediately.


Robert Hatton

Stop spending $100s of millions annually on developer tax breaks that don’t deliver more housing, and instead redirect the funds to provide housing services and in some cases build city-owned affordable housing. At least one other candidate (the incumbent) supports INCREASING subsidies to developers through new tax breaks. Tax breaks are the wrong way - they often benefit the wrong people, the costs are generally not tracked and budgeted, and because of this, no city division is directly accountable to make sure they work.


Soaad Hossain

The next mayor should do many things, but I will only name three due to the character limit. First, they should assist first-time home buyers with buying their first home. Second, they should ensure that more affordable homes are created. Third, they should take measures to improve the conditions of existing homes, such as social housing units. They should do those to ensure that homes are being purchased by those planning on living in Toronto, more people have a place in Toronto to live in, and homes in Toronto are in good condition.


Khadijah Jamal

Everyone in the city should have access to a roof over their head. Their are many alternative methods to ensure there are no housing issues in the future - but thus far, no previous government has been willing to make the tough and decisive choices required


Tony Luk

We are living within an increasingly expensive city. The fight for the ability needs to include affordable housing, especially for the young generation, new university graduates, newcomers, and persons in need. The city always needs new energy to keep it growing and prosperous. With the newly expanded powers of the mayor’s office, we are able to quickly proceed to change the zoning and building code to build along our commercial arteries. Micro-housing should also be considered.


Gil Penalosa

We need to make better use of public land and end single-family exclusionary zoning. My Homes for Everyone plan will open up enough space for 1.9M new homes by up-zoning land to build 100% affordable housing on top of parking lots, libraries, and community centres. We will also ensure rent control and eviction protection on all new units, and strengthen the RentSafe program by requiring colour-coded signs be posted, incentivizing landlords make needed repairs. My plan also allows homeowners to build up to 6 rental units on their existing homes.


Stephen Punwasi

Housing is infrastructure. We don't have a city without people, and we won't retain them if they don't have stable shelter. That's why we plan to create a city-owned housing company, leveraging city-owned lands to build tax-payer owned rentals. Not subsidized, but stabilized. Our housing plan is one of the most comprehensive ever proposed, including pattern homes, accelerated development, and more community engagement. We encourage you to check out our whole plan on our website.


John Tory

I put forward a five-point plan to build more housing, faster. The plan focuses on permitting “missing middle” housing in neighbourhoods, making it easier to build homes, enabling more co-op, supportive and affordable housing, and encouraging the construction of purpose-built rental housing.


Reginald Tull

In order to live comfortably (referring to affordable housing/living) one must have a mortgage or monthly rent payment that costs less than 30% of their household income. The City's goal is to build 40,000 affordable housing units by 2030, as Mayor of Toronto, I will make it a priority to have it done by 2027. I will invest in more co-op housing and shelters. I will aim to drastically reduce homelessness in the city, I plan to work with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to help with this issue.


Jack Yan

As the Mayor of Toronto, I will immediately roll back the city's discriminating and regressive housing policies such as restrictive zoning bylaws and "Inclusionary" Zoning. My housing policies will introduce new housing supply into the market by incentivizing builders to increase density in high demand areas. Torontonians should not be paying an arm and an leg for a suboptimal location when core areas are ripe for redevelopment. All Torontonians will be able to live affordably, not just the lucky few who won the affordable housing lottery.

Learn About 5 Big Issues in the City