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Research Reports

Research is a primary activity of the centre.  As specified in the Mission, it will be undertaken to inform local policy decisions regarding the economic aspects of current conditions, policy issues and policy choices.  The research themes, topics, and projects will be determined and undertaken based on the advice of the Advisory Committee and under the direction of the Management Committee. 

Current Projects

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The Housing Affordability Benefits of Commutershed Land Use Planning: A Case Study of the Ottawa and Toronto Metropolitan Areas 

February 6, 2024 - This paper authored by CUR Senior Research Fellow, Frank Clayton, addresses why since the mid-2000s housing affordability in Ontario’s largest metropolitan area, Toronto, has deteriorated much more than in the province’s second-largest metropolitan area, Ottawa.

There is a growing awareness that an inverse relationship exists between housing prices and the characteristics of the land use planning framework. The paper examines the roles of demographic, economic, and housing market factors in the increasing affordability gap between the Toronto and Ottawa census metropolitan areas (CMAs) with the influence of the planning systems being determined residually.

It is concluded that the widening affordability gap is most likely due to:

  • The municipal and planning fragmentation in metropolitan Toronto versus a single dominant municipality in metropolitan Ottawa; and
  • The Province’s imposition of additional planning layers on municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe but not metropolitan Ottawa (i.e., the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Act).

The research supports undertaking of a more in-depth analysis of the impact of the land use planning regimes on short-term land inventories and new ground-related housing production in the two metropolitan areas to better understand the relationship between these variables and their implications for housing affordability.

 (PDF file) Read the report here

Differentiating Housing Demand, Housing Needs, and Housing Requirements

December 20, 2023 - There are no widely accepted definitions for housing demandhousing needs or housing requirements. Consequently, the appellations are used interchangeably by planners, economists and housing policy analysts, creating confusion. This paper, authored by Senior Research Fellow Frank Clayton, examines how housing demandneeds, and requirements are defined in the housing-related literature and recommends standardized definitions for use in housing market and policy analyses: 

  • Housing demand - The number of new and existing housing units purchased or rented in a specified period: a market-driven concept relating to the types, numbers, and locations of homes that households choose to occupy based on preferences and willingness to pay.
  • Housing needs - Applying the core housing need definition. Households are said to be in “core housing need” if their housing falls below at least one of the adequacy, affordability, or suitability standards or if they spend 30% or more of their total before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing that is acceptable (meets all three housing standards). Many households in core housing need live in suitable, acceptable accommodation; they only need help paying the rent for their current units.
  • Housing requirements - The number of housing units by type, tenure, and location to maintain housing affordability at the market level: defined as projected household growth + net demolitions and conversions + vacancy allowance + affordability adjustment = total requirements.

Do you agree with these definitions? If not, how would you define these terms?

 (PDF file) View Report

What the Census of Canada Tells Us About the Supply of Missing Middle Housing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

October 24, 2023 - There is an escalating interest in missing middle housing – homes ranging from townhouses to apartments in structures of four storeys or less – but little data on their numbers and growth. This paper, authored by TMU CUR researchers Frank Clayton and Nigel Alfonso, examines the number of missing middle housing units by type added to the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) housing stock between 2006 and 2021. In the time since the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe was implemented in 2006:

  • The percentage of missing middle units added to the GGH's housing stock in the census periods from 2006 to 2021 remained flat at about 21% of all units added, though the number of units added per five-year period fell from 51,724 to 41,180;
  •  There was a sharp drop in the percentage of missing middle homes added to the housing stock in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in that time period, from 20% to 14%, however, it was offset by an increase in other parts of the GGH, from 25% to 36%; 
  • Townhouses were the most popular type of missing middle housing built in both the GGH and the GTA over the 15 years, and secondary suites added to existing single-detached houses were the lowest;
  • By census metropolitan area, the GGH's decline in additional missing middle units over the 15 year period was centred in Toronto - in contrast, the number of missing middle housing units increased the most in Guelph, Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, and St. Catharines/Niagara;
  • Within the GTA, the city of Toronto recorded a small decline in its stock of missing middle housing during 2016-2021, likely due to older low-rise apartment structures being demolished to make way for high-density structures; 
  • York and Halton regions recorded the biggest increases in the GTA's stock of occupied missing middle housing in 2016-2021; and
  •  Secondary suites in houses contributed little to the growth in the GTA's stock of missing middle housing in 2016-2021.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Expanding Housing Supply and Improving Housing Affordability in the GGH Are Pipedreams Without an Ample Inventory of Shovel-Ready Sites"

May 25, 2023 -There is a severe shortage of shovel-ready land for ground-related housing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), according to CUR researchers Frank Clayton and David Amborski. There is only a 1.9-year supply of land compared to the required minimum of 4 years for each housing type under the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) with annual monitoring. In contrast, the supply of shovel-ready apartment sites exceeds the PPS minimum. As a result, it will be impossible to increase the supply of new housing significantly, thus easing prices and rent pressures in the GGH, without ample shovel-ready land for all types of housing in a variety of sites to accommodate much-needed building activity. 

Steps are being made in the right direction through the Province's implemented and proposed initiatives to significantly increase the GGH's supply of new housing faster by simplifying the planning system and encouraging more land to be available for housing in both built-up areas through intensification and on greenfield lands. There are, however, two apparent shortcomings in the Province's initiatives: (1) a failure to disaggregate its municipal housing targets by unit type as specified in the PPS; and (2) a lack of monitoring compliance with the PPS's policy requiring municipalities to maintain an ample supply of shovel-ready lands in both built-up and greenfield areas at all times. 

The researchers recommend the Province consider: (1) putting more emphasis on increasing the supply of affordable housing options which are closer substitutes to ground-related housing (i.e. stacked townhouses, garden apartments, and quadruplexes) than high-rise apartments and providing targets for these housing types; and (2) making the maintenance of an ample supply of shovel-ready land by unit type by municipalities a high priority of the provincial government through enforcing or incentivizing compliance with policy 1.4.1b) of the PPS.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Quantifying Lower and Moderate-Income Households in Housing Need in the Greater Toronto Area"

February 27, 2023 - The affordability crisis, which is exceedingly impacting lower-income households, is being mis-addressed by concerns and housing subsidies targeted at providing affordable housing for middle-income households. 

This paper by Frank Clayton and Graeme Paton explores the latest data on households with Core Housing Need (CHN) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). CHN refers to households unable to secure affordable, suitable and adequate housing in the marketplace.

Highlights include:

  • There was a sizable increase in the number of GTA households in CHN between 1991 (184,900) and 2021 (348,500) though the percentage of all households in CHN was about the same in both years (about 15%)
  • GTA renters are much more likely to be in CHN (25-35%) than owners (around 10%)
  • A temporary drop occurred in both the number and percentage of GTA households in CHN between 2016 and 2021, including renters and owners- due to short-lived pandemic income support provided by governments.
  • While more renters paying 30% or more of their income for shelter are in CHN (70%), much fewer owner households (25%) are in similar positions. Many owners are non-CHN households paying 30% or more for shelter as they are "over-housed" by choice.
  • Within the GTA, the city of Toronto has the majority of CHN households (59%) though its share of all households is 47%.

For middle-income households, the thrust by governments should be increasing the overall supply of housing to tilt market conditions in favour of buyers and renters. This would also help lower-income households by reducing the competition for existing affordable housing from middle-income households. 

Public housing subsidy dollars should be targeted at providing affordable housing for lower-income households, unlike the current situation where most subsidy dollars for new housing benefit middle-income groups (e.g. the National Housing Strategy and Toronto's Housing Now initiative).

 (PDF file) View Report

"Factors Contributing to the Lengthy Time from Designation of Greenfield Lands to Building Housing: Two Halton Region Case Studies"

December 20 2022 - This paper by Frank Clayton and Graeme Paton explores the factors contributing to the lengthy process in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) of bringing designated greenfield land to the housing development stage. It provides the results of in-depth analyses of the various steps and timelines in the planning process for two case studies examined in the Halton Region: North Oakville in the Town of Oakville and the Boyne Survey in the Town of Milton.

Key findings are (1) that the time to prepare designated lands for housing production is indeed lengthy, 12 years for North Oakville and 18 years for the Boyne Survey, and; (2) each primary phase of the planning process contributed to the lengthy approval process.

Timelines of 12 to 18 years for transforming designated greenfield lands to sites approved and serviced with trunk services cause housing shortages in the GTHA, a region seeing dynamic growth. 

We recommend that municipalities target timelines of five years after the designation of greenfield lands in their Official Plans until the lands become part of the short-term land supply as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement. Secondly, we recommend an emphasis on a better collection of timeline data on each phase of the land use planning process.

 (PDF file) View Report

"GTHA 2021-2051 Land Needs Forecasts Lack Viable Alternatives to Single-Detached Houses"

August 9, 2022 - This report by Frank Clayton analyzes the housing requirement forecasts by unit type for the four regional municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area and the City of Hamilton. These forecasts were prepared as part of the Municipal Comprehensive Review process, during which the upper-tier and single-tier municipalities must update their Official Plans to conform with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  

The analysis illustrates how the Growth Plan represents an ambitious effort to shape land use regulations to direct how residents live, work, and interact with others throughout a vast region. This effort includes a significant shift in the composition of new housing to be built as the emphasis has shifted from single-detached houses to higher-density forms of housing.

It is clear from the forecasts that the five municipalities are planning to greatly underproduce “missing middle” housing types, like townhouses and stacked townhouses, which are the closest substitutes to the single-detached houses preferred by many households. Instead, single-detached houses are to be replaced with apartments.

The intention to replace the policy-induced shortfall of single-detached houses with apartments instead of “missing middle” housing forms will result in higher housing costs and longer commutes as households will likely move further away from employment centres in search of less expensive ground-related homes. This out-migration would be less pronounced if more "missing middle" housing was available in existing urban areas.

What is needed are ambitious targets to replace the reduced production of new single-detached houses with many more missing middle housing forms like townhouses, back-to-back townhouses, stacked townhouses and other low-rise apartments.

 (PDF file) View Report

"No to Urban Boundary Expansion: Halton Region Is Not Hamilton, but Still Challenges Provincial Directives for 30-Year Land Supply"

July 22, 2022 -This paper authored by Frank Clayton examines the degree to which the recent decision by the Council of Halton Region regarding future regional housing and land needs during 2021-2051 is compliant with the directives of the Provincial Government. A significant finding from our research is that Halton has a much larger supply of designated greenfield land than does the City of Hamilton. Still, both Hamilton and Halton need to replenish their greenfield lands if they are to accommodate the mix of new housing required under the policies of A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2020) to accommodate growth to 2051.

By deliberately understating the need for more lands to accommodate ground-related housing types, both municipalities are exacerbating the affordable housing challenges already faced by residents within the larger Greater Golden Horseshoe. Halton has previously demonstrated its ability to produce more housing than it has in recent times. The Region's share of housing starts in the Toronto census metropolitan area dropped from 12% in 2001-2005 to 9-10% in 2011-2020. The sluggishness in converting designated greenfield lands into serviced sites in Halton appears due to inertia in the planning system, and differences between municipalities and developers on the appropriate housing types, densities and the financial front-ending of major infrastructure.

We know that Halton fails to regularly monitor its supply of short-term land by dwelling type in greenfields and built-up urban areas as required under Policy 1.4.1 b) of the Provincial Policy Statement. Under this policy, municipalities like Halton must maintain at all times an inventory of short-term land with servicing capacity to accommodate a minimum of three years of market-based demand by dwelling type.

 (PDF file) View Report

"What Kinds of Housing Are Homebuyers or Intending Homebuyers in the GTHA Choosing?"

June 28, 2022 - There is no doubt that recent homebuyers and intending homebuyers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (“GTHA”) continue to have a strong innate preference for ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses. Many recent first-time buyers have purchased a ground-related home. This is consistent with the June 2022 Bank of Canada report that shows that in recent years house price trends in Canada have increased more rapidly in the suburbs than in downtown areas.

In contrast, this paper by Frank Clayton finds that urban land-use policies are designed to shift the new housing supply away from ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses, to apartments, primarily for environmental reasons. The current provincial government's version of the Growth Plan incorporates a sizeable shift away from single-detached houses to apartments in the GTHA.

This disparity between housing demand and supply sets the stage for housing prices to move even higher in the coming years, with adverse consequences for younger and immigrant households and a more unequal distribution of wealth among households in the GTHA. As in recent years, these higher housing prices will encourage many households to move further away from employment nodes, searching for affordable types of ground-related homes.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Why Isn’t a Lot More Purpose-Built Rental Housing Being Built in the Greater Toronto Area?"

June 16, 2022 - The Greater Toronto Area (“GTA”) has an almost insatiable need for more rental housing despite a short-term uptick in vacancy rates resulting from the pandemic. So, the question is often asked: Why don’t we see the start of many more new purpose-built rental projects? A recent CMHC-funded study done by Altus Group provides the answer: even with the low-interest rates in place in 2020, expected rents are inadequate to generate widespread interest in building new rental projects. This paper by Frank Clayton and Graeme Paton summarizes the Altus findings for the GTA. 

New rental projects are typically not financially viable. However, there are exceptions (e.g., owners of existing rental buildings with surplus site area suitable for a new building or the redevelopment of underperforming shopping centres). The viability gap is the smallest for the low-rise apartment pro forma in the 905 regions.

The paper also presents the authors' policy options for significantly increasing the production of new rental housing including options to reduce the land cost component of building new projects.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Forecasting Housing Needs to 2051: York Region Is Credible, Hamilton Is Not"

October 22, 2021 - The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe ("Growth Plan") cleverly provides a planning roadmap addressing housing affordability, including ground-related homes, and environmental concerns like greenhouse gas reductions. It does this by instructing municipalities to base long-term land requirements on market-based needs subject to minimum targets for: (a) the proportion of new housing built in existing urbanized areas (intensification), and (b) the number of people and jobs accommodated per hectare of greenfield land (densification).
 
Municipalities in the GGH are busily preparing forecasts of additional housing needs over 2021-2051 as input into determining future residential land requirements applying a methodology given to them by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
 
This paper assesses the housing needs forecasts prepared by two municipalities - the City of Hamilton and the Region of York. These forecasts are examined for conformity with the Province's land needs assessment methodology and the extent to which staff recommendations to their respective Councils are consistent with the market-based land supply test required by the Growth Plan.

The bottom line is that York's forecast of future greenfield land needs during 2021-2051 is more reasonable than Hamilton's, with Hamilton significantly understating its greenfield land needs.

Frank Clayton is a Senior Research Fellow with CUR. He is also a consultant to a landowners' group seeking to bring greenfield lands into Hamilton's urban area.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Mobility and Bike Share During the Pandemic: A Look Back at Bike Share Usage in 2020"

August 12, 2021 - The pandemic has changed the way individuals and households live, work and play in the city of Toronto. These shifts were evident in the way the city of Toronto’s bike-sharing program (“Bike Share”) was used in 2020.

This report looks at how ridership patterns changed during the pandemic. Findings show that while Bike Share was primarily used during peak commuting hours prior to the pandemic, there were far more rides on weekends and evenings during the pandemic. Bike usage also shifted by location. Stations near employment centres were most popular prior to the pandemic, but stations near the waterfront recreational trails had more usage in 2020. Meanwhile, there was a big increase in usage among "mega-users", those riders out for a full day, or couriers using Bike Share to make their deliveries.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Changing Direction: A Fresh Approach for Assessing Affordable Housing Options in the GTA"

May 20, 2021 - This paper uses a data-driven analytical tool to argue that the initiatives taken by various levels of government to address housing affordability challenges in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are not likely to materially improve access to housing. They fail to appreciate the dual dimension of the affordability problem: (a) an insufficient supply of the types of housing demanded by the marketplace, which causes prices and rents to be excessively high relative to incomes; and (b) the inability of many low-income households to secure suitable and adequate housing at a cost they can afford. Securing acceptable housing is becoming increasingly harder for low-income households as they are competing with middle-income households to gain access to the declining stock of affordable housing.
 
We conclude that housing affordability can be improved only if coordinated action is taken at a regional level, not the municipal one, to reform the planning system to greatly increase and expedite planning applications for all types of housing. The positive side of planning reform is that improvements to overall market affordability can be achieved with little or no spending by municipalities, allowing them to direct more money towards subsidies to low-income households living in core housing need.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Who Is Being Left Behind in the GTA Housing Market? A Profile of Core Housing Need, 1991-2018"

February 25, 2021 - There has been a flurry of interest in recent years by all levels of government on the provision of affordable housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). A wide variation exists in what people mean by “affordability”, however. We have observed that policy-makers are increasingly applying it to the difficulties middle-income households are having in finding acceptable housing at a price or rent they can afford. While governments are devoting significant resources to help these households, less attention is being given to the affordability problems of low-income households. This paper seeks to address this obvious shortcoming.

Using the Core Housing Need (CHN) metric formulated by CMHC, the paper documents trends in CHN over time by tenure and looks at the most recent data by location and household characteristics.

Highlights include: about 400,000 GTA households are in CHN with the majority being renters living in the city of Toronto. Most households in CHN are living in acceptable housing but are paying too much for it.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Pre-Zoning Corridor Lands to a Higher Density - A Necessary but Not Sufficient Prerequisite for Increasing Housing Supply Elasticity"

April 20, 2020 - The Kingston Road Revitalization Study for the Birchcliff community corridor (avenue) in former Scarborough was launched by the City of Toronto in 2004. The Study resulted in a number of zoning changes permitting higher densities, aimed at encouraging new residential development. The enactment of these zoning changes along this corridor is used here as a case study to see whether pre-zoning avenue land for denser development has increased the price elasticity of housing supply in response to demand.
 
This report concludes that pre-zoning avenues for higher densities is no panacea for ensuring serviced sites are available for development in response to increased market demand. It alone does not do enough to ensure that housing supply is able to respond quickly to demand. It is, however, a step in the right direction, in that Toronto's zoning should better reflect appropriate planning for current market conditions.

 (PDF file) View Report

"Upbeat Outlook for the GTHA Economy to Continue to Stoke Home Prices and Rents: Housing Affordability to Remain Challenged"

February 6, 2020 - The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board ("TRREB") requested that the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Toronto Metropolitan University study the future drivers of economic activity in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area ("GTHA") and how these future economic prospects will impact housing affordability.

What's in store for the GTHA economy and housing markets over the next decade? The region is expected to continue to churn out a healthy amount of high-paying jobs. This is good news for the wave of immigrants coming to the region in search of work and for Millennials and Generation Zers entering the job market. However, according to Frank Clayton and Diana Petramala, the authors of the report, the supply of new housing in the region is not expected to grow fast enough to meet the needs of this growing population. Housing costs are expected to continue to outstrip household income growth over the next decade and affordability will remain challenged.

 (PDF file) View Report

 (PDF file) View Frank Clayton's presentation at TRREB's Economic Outlook Summit

"Something to Think About: What Is Driving Declining Population Mobility in the Greater Toronto Area?"

July 22, 2019 - In this initial analysis, CUR looks at factors that could have contributed to declining population mobility in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) between 2006 and 2016.

Our top finding: a shortage of newly built ground-related homes (singles, semis and townhouses) likely was a major contributor to the decline in household mobility.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"CUR’s Top 10 Takeaways from Statistics Canada’s Latest Population Estimates for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH)"

June 21, 2019 - In this report, CUR presents the top ten highlights from StatsCan's 2018 population growth estimates for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).

Among the most interesting trends are a growth spurt in the City of Toronto led by temporary immigration; a slump in population growth in York Region and an exodus of Millennials and Generation X from more urban areas to more affordable suburban areas like Simcoe County. 

 (PDF file) Full Report

"How Land-Use Is Fuelling the Workplace Gender Gap in the Greater Golden Horseshoe"

March 8, 2019 - For the last six months, Diana Petramala at the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Toronto Metropolitan University (CUR) has been researching the impact that land-use planning can have on gender inequality in the workplace. CUR wanted to release some of this research to celebrate International Women's Day.

As a result of our research, we found that women (particularly millennial women) in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) are less likely to work than those living in other parts of Canada. The divergence in female labour force participation rates between the GGH and the rest of Canada suggests that a regional factor has resulted in relatively fewer highly educated women remaining in the job market. While access to daycare is certainly one factor in this equation, we argue that commute times may also play a role.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"How Much Room Does the City of Toronto Have for Increasing Residential Property Taxes?"

February 28, 2019 - The City of Toronto faces a growing financial challenge in its need to replace deteriorating infrastructure and to add new infrastructure in response to demands from population growth.

A new CUR analysis, authored by Senior Research Fellow Frank Clayton, concludes that Toronto has room to increase its average property tax rate on owner-occupied homes by approximately 20% to fund infrastructure and still be in the middle of the range of taxes levied by 28 other municipalities within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

At the time of the 2016 Census of Canada, Toronto’s effective property tax rate (taxes as a percent of the market value of owner-occupied homes) and average property tax burden (taxes as a percent of household income) were both approximately 20 percent less than the median-ranked municipality in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Townhouses Not a Magic Bullet for GTA Ground-Related Housing Affordability"

October 11, 2018 - This paper, authored by Frank Clayton, Senior Research Fellow, examines townhouses as an option for affordable ground-related housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The report finds that while new townhouses (generally regarded as a form of "missing middle" housing) are less expensive than new single-detached houses, they remain out of reach for many prospective buyers. This is largely because the cost of serviced land for townhouse development is inordinately high.

The report recommends enhancing townhouse affordability by: (a) greatly increasing the supply of serviced sites for both greenfield and intensification development, and (b) reducing government-imposed costs on new housing, especially development charges.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Reality Hits Home: Job Creation a Challenge for Complete Communities in the GGH"

July 25, 2018 - Creating complete communities throughout the region - those with a mix of residential and employment uses allowing for local live/work/shop/play lifestyles - has been a cornerstone of both Ontario's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006) and the 2017 revised version.

However, this policy ideal collides painfully with economic reality. 

Looking closer at the extent and location of job creation over the first decade of the plan (2006-2016), we find that actual employment growth does not support this objective in many municipalities throughout the GGH. The City of Toronto has greatly overachieved in its job creation, while the Outer Ring, with the exception of Wellington County, (including Guelph), has generally fallen behind. The four municipalities most challenged in terms of creating employment for complete communities have been Hamilton Durham, Niagara, and the Waterloo Region.

Given our analysis, we suggest provincial policymakers revisit the growth plan, to bring a closer correspondence between policy objective and economic reality.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Millennials in the GTHA: A Generation Stuck in Apartments?"

May 22, 2018 - While condo apartments in the 416 proved an affordable and attractive living option for younger Millennials over the last decade, many of them are entering a stage where they will prioritize space and affordability over amenities and access to transit. We expect they will want all the same things their parents did as they age and move up the income ladder, including marriage, children and homeownership of ground-related housing.  

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Critique of 2016 Employment Surveys and Economic Nuggets: GTA Municipalities"

November 20, 2017 - A new CUR report examines the extent to which the 2016 employment surveys conducted by various municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) can be aggregated to portray employment trends in the region as a whole.
 
It concluded that while the individual employment surveys as currently designed are unable to provide reliable estimates of GTA employment in a given year or to monitor employment growth over time, they do provide some interesting insights into differences in economic structures and growth dynamics between municipalities in the year 2016.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Overriding Preference for Ground-Related Housing by GTA Millennials and Other Recent and Prospective Buyers"

September 26, 2017 - This report updates a  (PDF file) CUR report released a year ago which reviewed a number of surveys of actual and likely homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in terms of the types of housing actually or intended to purchase. That study concluded: (a) GTA housing preferences strongly favour ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses and (b) these preferences cross all age groups of buyers including millennials.
 
This report reviews four recent consumer surveys providing information on the types of housing likely buyers state they are intending to buy or, in the case of first-time buyers (who are mostly millennials) the types of homes actually purchased.

In terms of all likely buyers regardless of age, the update reinforces the resiliency of the penchant for ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses, in the city of Toronto and the 905 regions of the GTA as found in our previous study.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Modernizing Building Approvals in Ontario: Catching Up with Advanced Jurisdictions" 

July 5, 2017 - New-home buyers are impacted by Ontario’s arduous wait on building and occupancy permits, which ultimately delays and reduces the supply of new houses and condos from entering the market.

This report focuses on routine and technical components of the regulatory process, excluding rezoning and other regulatory processes that are more political and often require public consultation. The study identifies where delays in the building permit process occur, some of the costs associated with these delays, and what can be done to modernize the approval process. 


Streamlining the Development and Building Approvals Process in Ontario, July 2017  (PDF file) Report 

Streamlining the Development and Building Approvals Process in Ontario, July 2018  (PDF file) Follow-Up Report (external link) 

"Why Are There Not More Townhouses Being Built in the Greater Toronto Area and What Is the Outlook?" 

May 30, 2017 - The fundamental question being addressed in a new report authored by CUR's Frank Clayton and Cameron Macdonald is why have the construction of townhouses been lower and not increasing across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) since the first half of the 2000s. With the sharply reduced affordability of single-detached homes and the Province’s planning interventions favouring townhouses and other denser forms of housing over single-detached houses, the expectation would have been for townhouse starts to increase, not to decline.

The number of townhouse starts in the GTA declined from an average of about 6,800 units per year in 2001-2005 to about 5,000 units in 2006-2016, a drop of about 25 percent. Sharp declines were recorded in both the 905 area and the City of Toronto. A scarcity of serviced sites is identified as a primary cause of the decline in townhouse construction.

The report concludes that there is a pressing need for the Province to recognize the challenge of augmenting the supply of new townhouses in the GTA and to require municipalities in the 905 area and the City of Toronto to significantly increase the supply of serviced sites for townhouses within their boundaries – the former on greenfield sites and the latter on lower-priority employment (industrial) lands.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Toronto has Plenty of Room for Increasing Residential Property Taxes"

February 13, 2017 - This report utilizes a comparative approach of 26 municipalities within the Greater Toronto Area to reach conclusions about the capacity for the City of Toronto to increase residential property taxes to finance its infrastructure requirements and ongoing services without resorting to new tax sources.
 
The bottom line is the City of Toronto has the capacity to increase its average property tax levied on homeowners by 17 percent to 23 percent if the taxes paid by homeowners in the median-ranked GTA municipality excluding Toronto is applied as a benchmark. In fact, it is likely the capacity exists to raise taxes even more than this conservative benchmark as long as Toronto taxpayers are aware of and support the services funded by the additional taxes.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"What Municipal Employment Surveys Tell Us About Recent Employment Growth in the Greater Toronto Area"

October 3, 2016 -Ongoing information on employment trends and patterns at the municipal, and even sub-municipal level is required by municipal land-use planners, economic development personnel, economists, and others interested in urban economic performance.

The purpose of this paper is to determine how useful the employment surveys conducted by the municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are in portraying accurate employment and businesses trends for the entire GTA and its individual municipalities.

The review of the municipal surveys conducted between 2011 and 2015 revealed that the available data does not provide an accurate portrayal of total employment, total businesses and annual changes in employment/businesses for the entire GTA. The analysis of the employment and business data raised doubts about the reliability of the annual results published by some of the municipalities. Changes to the municipal surveys are needed in order to provide annual data that accurately represents employment and business trends by individual municipality as well as for the entire GTA.

Four options were evaluated for the collection of more reliable and complete employment and business establishment data for the GTA, or indeed, the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe. The option having the potential to be the most cost effective and providing the most accurate employment and business establishment information for individual municipalities and for the GTA as a whole is the option is having Statistics Canada provide the information based on its current Canadian Business Patterns (CBP) database expanded to include exact employment counts for businesses rather than ranges of employment as at present.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Will GTA Homebuyers Really Give Up Ground-Related Homes for Apartments?"

August 15, 2016 - The willingness of GTA residents to forgo ground-related homes for apartments in location-efficient communities is an important issue for determining the impacts of land use plans that restrict the supply of serviced land for ground-related housing on housing affordability. This holds even if the plans proactively encourage the creation of more sites for apartments.

According to a new report released by the Centre, the view that many households in the GTA would willingly give up single-detached houses to move into higher density housing in location-efficient communities is wrong. Urban policies which try to force this by constraining the supply of new ground-related housing will lead to even higher house prices, sub-optimal location choices, and huge capital gain windfalls for the lucky owners of existing houses and vacant lands on which new ground-related homes could be built.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Demographic Update - Millennials in the Greater Golden Horseshoe in Mid-2015"

July 6, 2016 - This report updates previous population tables from  (PDF file) Population Dynamics in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – Millennials vs. Baby Boomers  for 2006-2014 using population estimates from Statistics Canada for 2015. While the earlier study found that millennials were flocking to the city of Toronto, the latest population data for the 12 months ending July 1, 2015 show otherwise:

  • The city of Toronto recorded a smaller growth in its millennial population between 2014 and 2015 than the suburban regions of Peel and York – 2,200 persons vs. 5,300 and 3,900 persons, respectively.

Could this much slower growth in the city of Toronto millennials along with the more rapid growth in Peel and York regions indicate millennials are making a move to more suburban communities in search of more single-detached houses?

For now, it is too early to say, as these population data are only estimates by Statistics Canada which are subject to major revisions. Once the 2016 Census of Canada population counts are released in 2017, we will be able to get a clearer picture of demographic changes that have occurred in the GGH since last Census in 2011. 

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Population Dynamics in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Millennials vs. Baby Boomers"

November 19, 2015 - This report analyzes population growth patterns by municipality within the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) by component and generation for the period 2011-2014 with comparisons to patterns of the preceding five years. There is a particular focus on the behaviour of two generations – millennials (ages 17-33 in 2014) and baby boomers (ages 50-68 in 2014). Highlights of the statistical analysis are:

  • There are about the same number of millennials and baby boomers in the GGH in 2014 – just over 2.2 million.
  • The number of GGH millennials are increasing, by an average of 43,000 persons per year in 2011-2014, while baby boomers declined slightly.
  • Millennials are  flocking to the city of Toronto, growing by an average of 26,000 persons per years in 2011-2014;  Peel region was next with growth averaging 5,000 per year.
  • A net influx of immigrants is the largest cause of growth in GGH millennials with the influx centred in the city of Toronto and Peel region.
  • A net outflow of intraprovincial migrants (total of all generations) is taking place from city of Toronto and Peel region to other municipalities, most notably to Simcoe county, and York, Durham and Halton regions.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"A Look at Reasons Why the Growth Plan Population Forecasts May Be Off-Target"

November 3, 2015 - This report explores reasons for the significant differences between population growth forecasts for municipalities prepared in 2013 for the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe for 2011-2016 and the actual growth estimated by Statistics Canada for 2011-2014. These differences have been documented in an earlier CUR report  (PDF file) Are the Growth Plan Population Forecasts on Target?, opens in new window (dated April 1, 2015).

The most noted differences between estimated actual and forecasted future population growth are: (1) a considerable shortfall in population growth in the Outer Ring (largely municipalities outside the outer boundary of the Greenbelt), particularly in the west (e.g. Waterloo region): (2) higher than forecasted future population growth in the city of Toronto and (3) a shortfall in the 905 portions of the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (GTAH) centred in York and Durham regions.

The authors conclude that these divergences between the forecasted and estimated actual population growth during 2011-2014 can be explained primarily by the robust growth in new apartment construction and employment growth in central Toronto combined with shortages of serviced lots for ground-related housing in key 905 region municipalities both within and outside of the GTA. Employment weakness in Kitchener-Waterloo was a contributing factor in the western sub-forecast area. Unless there is a significant increase in the supply of serviced sites in the areas outside the city of Toronto it is likely that the population, and, ultimately, employment, forecasts for these areas in the Growth Plan will not be met.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Is Inclusionary Zoning a Needed Tool for the Greater Golden Horseshoe?"

October 20, 2015 - It is generally recognized that the provision of affordable housing to meet the needs of lower income households is an income redistribution program most appropriately funded by the senior levels of government, not municipalities. Municipalities are being force to search for less satisfactory, locally based approaches due to a marked shortfall in funding from the Ontario and federal governments. In this report Dr. Frank Clayton and research assistant Geoff Schwartz explore the need for a new tool –inclusionary zoning (IZ) -  to be added to the municipal toolbox for providing affordable housing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). IZ typically reserves a percentage of affordable housing units in new developments that require re-zonings. In exchange, density trade-offs are frequently offered to developers to offset the cost of providing affordable units.

The report explores the different iterations of inclusionary zoning in effect in other jurisdictions and focuses on the impacts that IZ could have on the housing market in the GGH. It further explores how an inclusionary zoning policy would fit with the other policy tools available to Ontario municipalities, including development charges, Section 37 of the Planning Act and the creation of second suites in single-detached houses. It is found that inclusionary zoning policy is fundamentally determined at a local level and has varying levels of success in terms of producing affordable units and minimizing negative impacts such as increases in housing prices and decreases in new housing production.

The research findings indicate that IZ in Ontario might not be necessary. Inclusionary zoning effectively duplicates the provisions of Section 37 of the Planning Act which allow municipalities to provide additional density in exchange for community benefit contributions, including affordable housing. Moreover, municipalities can enhance housing affordability in the GGH in a significant way by greatly increasing the supply of serviced sites for all types of new housing units and encouraging the creation of second units in the existing stock of single-detached houses. 

 (PDF file) Full Report

"A Downtown On-Street Parking Model with Urban Truck Delivery Effects: A Case Study of Toronto's Financial District"

September 24, 2015 - In this report Professor Joseph Chow with research assistance by Ahmed Amer present an on-street parking model for downtowns in urban centers that incorporates the often-neglected parking demand of commercial vehicles. When parking is saturated, passenger cars often cruise until an open space is available. Commercial vehicles, on the other hand, are more likely to double-park near their destinations and occupy a travelling street lane. 

The model is applied to  a case study area that encompasses the Financial District in downtown Toronto to demonstrate the application of the model and how useful it could be in creating significant gains in social surplus (in maximizing the total benefit minus the total cost). The authors  found that compared to a baseline scenario representative of the study area in Toronto in 2015, increasing parking fees from $4/hour to nearly $9/hour and assigning 3.4% of parking spaces to truck deliveries would eliminate cruising and truck double-parking, resulting in a social surplus gain of over $13,500/hr/mi2.  This is one of two scenarios examined in the report.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"Warden Woods: A Case Study of Building Affordable Market Family Housing on Former Industrial Lands"

April 27, 2015 - This report traces the transformation of 68 hectares (168 acres) of land in the former city of Scarborough from an under-performing industrial area to the family-oriented residential community now known as Warden Woods Community. 

It briefly describes conditions in the larger industrial area of which the Warden Woods lands were a part around the year 2000, and provides insights into the numbers and types of housing built and the characteristics of residents occupying the new homes. The bulk of the report provides a chronology of the planning process that led to the conversion of the Warden Woods lands from industrial or commercial uses to a sizeable lower-density residential community.

 (PDF file) Full Report

"City of Toronto's Land Transfer Tax - Good, Bad or Merely Tolerable?"

March 13, 2015 - The Land Transfer Tax (LTT) imposed by the City of Toronto in early 2008 remains controversial with the real estate industry fervently pleading for its repeal. In contrast, with the tax generating a considerable revenue stream – a record $432 million in 2014 – City Council and its staff advisors are reluctant to tinker with the tax, let alone eliminate it.

This report provides insight into two questions: How should Toronto residents regard the LTT – as a good tax, a bad tax, or simply a tolerable tax? And would the city's tax system be improved by dropping the LTT and replacing foregone revenues with higher property taxes?

 (PDF file) Full Report

"New Direction for Funding Growth-Related Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton"

December 8, 2014 - In the GTA, municipalities provide sanitary sewer and water services to their residents and businesses. The provision of these services and the maintenance and improvement of the physical infrastructure are financed through a combination of user charges and developer charges levied on new development. The financing of new sewer and water infrastructure is a major component of the total development charges levied on new development. Development charges are in turn a significant portion of the cost of new development.

 (PDF file) Full Report