Now is the time to fix the housing supply problem in the GTA
Every month, BILD reports on new home sales in the GTA. This data is collected and compiled by the Altus Group and provides us with important information on how many new homes were sold, the average asking price and the remaining number of new homes in builders’ inventory. It is an important tool that gives those involved in housing, real estate and development real time insight on how government housing regulations, fiscal policy, economic conditions and consumer confidence influence the housing market in the region.
BILD recently released the 2019 year end new homes sales data, showing that GTA new home sales rallied from the 22-year low of 2018. Overall in 2019, there were 36,471 new homes sold in the GTA. Only 24,855 new homes had been sold the previous year, which made 2018 the year with the lowest number of new home sales in the GTA since 1996.
There were 26,948 condominium apartments, including units in low-, medium- and highrise buildings, stacked townhouses and loft units, sold in 2019, up 27 per cent from 2018 and 16 per cent above the 10- year average. Single-family homes, including detached, linked, and semidetached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses), accounted for 9,523 new home sales, up 157 per cent from 2018 (the lowest year for new single-family home sales since comprehensive tracking started in 1981), but still 30 per cent below the 10-year average.
So what do these numbers mean? At first glance, it looks like new home sales were solid for 2019, but that was not the case. That’s what happens when the market recovers from the 22-year low of the previous year and new home sales remain 30 per cent below the 10-year average. What we saw in 2019 was a release of pent up demand from 2018. We need to keep our focus on increasing housing supply, making sure that there’s a solid inventory base to ensure that housing prices remain stable. Consumer demand has not diminished; in fact, as the region continues to grow we can be sure it will remain robust and we must make housing more affordable for the average person living in the GTA by eliminating barriers and build homes faster. We have to accept that demand will continue to increase, and both the building industry, municipal governments, and the provincial government must work together to keep all types of housing (rental and ownership) within reach.
On average, it takes 10 years to build a typical highrise project and 11 years to complete a lowrise project in the GTA. New homes must be built faster. Layers of bureaucracy, outdated zoning, and complex policies and procedures have created barriers to the efficient operation of the housing market that have resulted in a generational shortfall of housing. These obstacles have delayed the development of new homes, and have contributed to the increase in housing costs experienced over the past decade.
In addition, demand for new housing has increased as the Greater Toronto Area has become one of the most desirable places to live. The GTA is the fastest growing region in North America, with an estimated 115,000 new residents arriving every year. The population of the GTA is set to grow by 40 per cent, or an estimated 9.7 million people, by 2041; that timeline is not far away.
In May, 2019, the Ontario government announced the Housing Supply Action Plan, representing the first major step by any provincial government to address the supply challenges facing the housing market and their effects on affordability. The proposed changes also acknowledge the cumulative effect that taxes, fees and charges have on housing affordability. Land transfer taxes, HST, parkland fees and development charges collectively add $124,000 to the cost of an average new condo in the GTA, and $222,000 to the cost of an average new single- family home.
This is not a time for small plans. The numbers don’t lie. This year, all levels of government and our industry must continue to work together so we can fix the housing supply problem in the GTA.
Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).