The field is set for this summer’s provincial election and Ontarians are beginning to deliberate between the three major parties’ platforms.
For young voters in Ontario’s capital, an important electoral issue this year revolves around Toronto’s housing market.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade announced its belief the city’s lack of affordable housing is driving so many young professionals to leave the city to look for work that it is threatening Toronto’s ability to attract and maintain a world-class workforce. Therefore, the organization released a Housing Policy Playbook, which includes five ideas for Ontario’s party leaders to consider pushing affordable housing in their platforms.
The recommendations range from rolling back rent controls to quickening the process to approve new municipal infrastructure. The report argues that Toronto accounts for more than half of the province’s economy, so the struggle young people face to find affordable housing with easy access to work is a provincial issue.
The rent crisis is driving away a strong workforce from the province’s economic engine.
Toronto’s cost of living has long been considered notoriously unaffordable. Average home prices in the city dropped slightly to $767,818 in February, compared to $876,363 in February last year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board’s Market Watch.
But affordability for young workers right out of university are more often about renting as opposed to buying a home. The website Rentseeker listed the average monthly rental prices in Toronto as being $1,128 for a bachelor apartment and $1,363 for a one-bedroom apartment in March.
Many post-secondary students have aspirations of moving to the big city after graduation. For most, Toronto is the city with the most opportunities for employment. Add to that the thriving nightlife and the ability to walk nearly everywhere, thereby saving the expense of a car, and the city becomes a place where a lot of twenty-somethings want to be.
Unfortunately, recent grads are lucky to emerge out of school with a job, let alone the disposable income to spend more than $1,000 each month in order to rent a tiny apartment. Let’s not forget they still have to buy groceries and pay maintenance and utility fees, along with other expenses relative to living on one’s own.
This makes Toronto an unrealistic option for many young professionals. This is not only unfortunate for young people, but also for the city itself. Recent grads can bring enthusiasm, passion and fresh ideas to Toronto employers. It can’t be denied that new hires bring something different to the table as opposed to workforce veterans of 20 or 30 years.
It truly is Toronto’s loss when young people are priced out of the city and forced to seek employment in more up-and-coming areas.
Millennials are the future. They are the ones have learnt about the newest technology and techniques, and it is a shame big companies in Toronto will be missing out on their talent because the workforce can’t afford to reside in the city.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade is calling on Ontario’s premier candidates to seriously consider their policy playbook for the sake of boosting the economy. Their report states that “to realize the full potential of the Toronto region and Ontario, we need a thoughtful strategy for the economy and its residents.”
But aside from thinking about this issue as purely about economics, this summer’s electoral candidates would do well to consider how they can make living in Toronto a more viable reality for the city’s current students and young workers, to entice more young voters. Making it more affordable for Toronto’s youth to live and work in the city is something young voters can rally around.