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No mistake about it. Housing is unaffordable worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated housing inequities. Demand for affordable housing continues to increase, putting pressure on municipalities outside of major metropolitan centres to provide housing. Vacancy rates in existing purpose built rental units will eventually creep back up making construction of new units paramount. The housing market bubble is about to burst and there maybe evidence to support this.

The housing market downturn in Canada maybe happening as we speak. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced last week that the national housing market sector moved from moderate to high vulnerability during the second quarter with major municipalities of Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal shouldering all the risk. In fact, recently a home in North York dropped nearly $500,000 from its original asking price from a year ago.

Here are also some startling projections from the demand side in Ontario taken from a recent report from the Smart Prosperity Institute:

  • Of the 910,000 net new households formed over the next ten years, primarily made up of couples planning on having children, we project that 195,000 will live in high-rise apartments (of five storeys or more), while 715,000 will live in all other forms of housing.
  • 1.475 million new households, with a head of household currently under the age of 55, will be formed over the next ten years. Of these, approximately 225,000 will live in high-rise apartments, with the rest living in other forms of housing.
  • Of the 225,000 new young households that will live in high-rise apartment units, only 30,000 units will be freed up by the generational turnover of those currently over the age of 55.
  • Generational turnover of other forms of housing will house roughly 45% of the new young families that will live in forms of housing other than high-rise apartments. The rest will come from new home construction.
  • Differences between levels of generational turnover are substantial. In some communities, generational turnover can provide an adequate supply of housing for the next generation. In other communities, it only scratches the surface. (Source: Smart Prosperity Institute, p. IV, October 2021)

While there has been “some” progress with Canada’s National Housing Strategy, clearly the housing bubble is about to burst. More changes are going to be necessary from policy and regulatory perspectives in order for this collision to be avoided. It will be telling if this a blip or a sign of things to come.


One such solution in addressing housing affordability is eliminating or modifying single family residential zoning to build missing middle housing. Single family residential zones only allow for, as you would guess, detached or semi-detached homes within neighbourhoods. While municipalities have become flexible to include granny flats or coach houses on the same property, this is a band-aid solution to address the supply issue.

Protection of single family residential neighbourhoods has racial and classist undertones to them. These are barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. In the United States, single-family zones have been associated with redlining and covenants that exclude racialized and marginalized people, which then become barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. While in Canada, NIMBYs that are behind protection of the neighbourhoods through ratepayers associations is evidence on why zoning changes are difficult to come by.

In risk-averse compliant Canada, there finally seems to be a general consensus among housing advocates that this should happen sooner rather than later. For instance, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recently posted an statement about fixing the affordability crisis through upzoning.

OREA is encouraging the Province to use the Planning Act to implement as-of-right zoning in Ontario’s highest-demand urban neighbourhoods. This change would allow the seamless and legal development of gentle density, including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, next door to existing density and close to subway and transit stations without unnecessary and lengthy case-by-case approvals.

Source: OREA, September 29, 2021

Oregon was the first state to ban single family zoning. Minneapolis was the first city to eliminate single-family zoning in 2020. Portland followed their lead too. California recently passed several bills to address the housing crisis including State Bill 9 (SB 9), which gives homeowners the ability to build multifamily residential on their own properties.

There will be detractors to this policy proposal. For example, in response to the passing of SB9, The Terner Center for Housing Innovation indicated that the legislation could be relevant for 1 in 20 single family home parcels. The law was watered down slightly to instill protections for existing renters and those in heritage districts. Parcels of land in major urban centres are already expensive in California. This is no different in the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver for example. So developers may not have the incentive to build in the end.

The province must take swift action to modify land use policies within the Planning Act. While there is evidence that building housing of all types by eliminating single family zones- especially in major transit station areas (MTSAs)- is necessary. The ultimate purpose is to build affordable housing equitably and without prejudice. Of course there must be financial levers in place, a matter of federal monetary policy, as a starting point to help make this happen. Collaboration with municipal planning agencies, land developers, and other stakeholders/rights holders will be critical in making eliminating single family zoning a success, and potentially making housing affordable.

Every year, I would write a post reviewing what transpired over the year and plans to move forward. Last year it did not happen because of a major upheaval. This year, I decided to return to the long standing tradition.

This year it is a year of transition, while remaining consistent with others. The biggest accomplishment this year was the recommencement of graduate school in September to complete the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program in Local Government at Western University. The last time I was in school was March 2016. Tragedy stuck where I lost my mother and took a lot of out of me emotionally. Now I return with greater confidence and purpose.

My research interests have slightly changed. I initially went into the program concentrating on regional transit governance. Those who have followed my blog, or those on social media, noticed my constant defense on the subject. I have been out of the transit profession for a while and the planning profession for three years and have been more focused on strategic and equitable leadership in local government. While governance remains a subject of interest from an organizational perspective, the majority of recent blog posts concentrated on racial and social equity.

This year’s international and national events surrounding addressing and eradicating racism after the deaths of innocent Black people with of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet was one factor. My post Enough is Enough from May highlighted my frustrations with systemic racism and my lived experiences navigating through White spaces in the professional world, and my own personal lived experiences from childhood to today.

Another factor was highlighted by the COVID pandemic that exacerbated the existing anti-Black racism and income gaps surrounding transit, public health and housing. Earlier this year, I contributed to an article to The Local Health Magazine where I spoke about my experience on the Jane 35, a Toronto transit bus route that traverses low-income neighbourhoods and where the hardest hit communities with COVID.

The plethora of Zoom webinars and meetings came with some positive results. One of them was meeting Carlton Eley, who provided me with some input on successfully maneuvering through the professional world focused on racial equity. I am forever grateful in him suggesting a book from Susan T Gooden titled Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government. I summarized the book in a post from the summer related to disrupting the status quo in the public sector. I will be incorporating some of her thoughts into my major research paper.

During this pandemic, I took up running as a form of physical activity in lieu of gyms being closed. As novice runner, it was more for exercise as well as visiting new neighbourhoods such as Oak Ridge and Birch Cliff in Scarborough and trails like the Finch West Hydro Corridor and the Beltline Trail.

But my social justice conscience went into high gear where I witnessed such disparities between the aforementioned Jane Street corridor and the Swansea neighbourhood as well as my experience seeing a makeshift encampment in Alexandra Park in Downtown Toronto. It was my last post on addressing the housing inequities in the City.

Finally, I started Urban Equity Consulting as a stop gap to find a way to work on contract developing solutions in strategic and technical urban planning and policy. But work has been scarce. It will be a placeholder to add racial and social equity to my practice once I complete graduate school and gain more experience in that area.

I predict the first half of 2021 will be more of the same, even with the discovery and distribution of vaccines among the general public. I will be graduating with a MPA degree in hand with a paper that hopes to carry me forward in my career, running a consistent 6:30 minute per kilometre pace, either continuing my practice with greater fervor or landing a full-time job – which the latter is preferred, and volunteering for causes with a strong racial equity focus.

I am looking forward to completing this transition in 2021 with greater purpose and success. Who’s ready to come for the ride? Drop me a note in the comments or follow me on my various social media channels.

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.

Albert Einstein

Shout out to an old colleague Mikel Oglesby who previous was Sunline Transit’s CEO and where I attended my one and only State of Transit address several years ago.

As a kid who resided in Lawrence Heights in social housing and in a co-op , transit was a8 way of life. My parents never owned a car. Nevertheless, I was enamoured by the whole experience. The bus drivers on the Ranee 109 or Lawrence 52 were my friends, even though I never knew their names.

I looked forward to every TTC map release and would ask the collector manning the booth for a copy. Sometimes multiple times if there weren’t any copies. I always viewed the TTC as an organization I wanted to work for.

I never viewed public transit as a status symbol and always played down the terms choice rider or captive rider.

Transit, to me was about a career with ties to community building and social equity. So when I saw TTC’s recent campaign wrapped in messaging, it was the wrong tone to send to their customers.

Image via Sean Marshall

John Lorinc’s Spacing article “Just Who is the Face of the TTC These Days?” highlighted the leadership vacuum that exists. There is clearly a stark difference between Andy Byford, who recently resigned as New York City’s Transit President after a two-year stint, and the current TTC CEO Rick Leary. Case in point, as Lorinc mentions, Leary was incognito after the second subway derailment this year. In addition, .

Transit providers should treat all individuals with dignity and respect, one of the key points noted in a 2018 APTA leadership presentation on social responsibility. There is also strategic and technical leadership. For example, while transit service standards have evolved over time, including King County where they include social equity measures, Canadian transit agencies do not incorporate them service standards.

It was a mere 3 years ago that the TTC was awarded the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Outstanding Public Transportation System. Oh have times changed.

The state of transit leadership thus far in 2020 is bleak at best. Andy Byford was a prime example of one who went out of his way to be publicly present and defend transit during some their trying times. The City and region is devoid of leadership and willingness to take risks.

It can only get better from here.

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