EDITORIAL: Students most vulnerable in GTA housing crisis

by | Apr 7, 2017 | Editorial


In the same week Major League Baseball re-opens its ballparks, the Greater Toronto Area’s out-of-control housing and rental prices are reaching a fever pitch.

For a potential homebuyer in the GTA, the average selling price of a home last month was over $916,567, according to the city’s real estate board in a statement on Wednesday, a jump of 33.2 per cent from March 2016.

Combined with chaotic over-density, a middling economy, slow job growth and Millennials becoming the first generation to earn as much or less than their parents, it’s not hard to forecast a future-GTA where large masses of Canadians would rather leave it than enter.

It wasn’t always like this. The “G” and the “A” in GTA were, at one time, the benefactors of Toronto’s expensive real estate market. Ajax, Burlington, Markham, Mississauga, Oakville, Oshawa and Whitby; families and young adults, children or not, would set their roots in these growing neighbourhoods. It became the perfect starter home for a college graduate or someone willing to travel into the city for their career.

But an oversaturated market marked by out-of-control population bumps and even more out-of-control prices has made it nearly impossible for someone to stay in the GTA upon graduation.

Let’s start with the freshest of housing market consumers: post-secondary students. Sadly, what’s often glossed over and most-likely affects the readers of this editorial (apart from the parents of the main demographic) is the almost inexcusable rental prices young adults face in Toronto and beyond.

Humber students who lived within walking distance of North campus told Et Cetera they were paying as much as $750 per month, regardless of the amount of people living in the home (remember that North campus is on the outskirts of the GTA and is a 90-minute bus/subway ride to downtown Toronto).

Some Lakeshore campus students said they were paying more, with one telling Et Cetera that she and her two roommates are paying $925-per-month each in a one-bathroom townhouse with “almost no kitchen, beyond the fridge my grandfather donated.”

For the many who relied on loans, either through a bank or the government, home ownership is impossible. Take the average GTA student: if you borrowed to pay for living expenses, food, rent and tuition, and did so for a typical four-year degree, you could be $50,000 in debt once you’ve received the piece of paper. Working abroad and leaving your bubble is quickly becoming the norm.

While the news via the Toronto Real Estate Board was being digested, the Toronto Star reported the federal government was hoping to meet with Toronto Mayor John Tory and provincial Finance Minister Charles Sousa (federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau going so far as to retweeting a link to the Star story on Wednesday). Morneau wrote Sousa and Tory separately, asking to meet soon to “consider how we can collectively make progress to ensure that housing in the GTA is both affordable and accessible for the long term.”

The federal finance minister, coincidentally, also represents the downtown riding of Toronto Centre, and faced growing complaints from constituents who feared they’d be forced to leave as time passed.

On Thursday, Royal Bank of Canada’s President and Chief Executive Dave McKay told a group of shareholders in Toronto that Toronto and Vancouver’s housing markets are at the “point of strain” and called for a “multi-faceted solution, which addresses supply constraints and speculative forces.”

McKay suggested all three levels of government work together to find a solution to the Greater Toronto Area’s rapidly escalating housing prices, “and to do so rapidly, quickly.”

With growing concern from citizens, politicians and members of the private industry, attention on the GTA’s housing crisis is a certainty. But whether any answers can be found before the bubble bursts is more uncertain than ever.