Photo: James Bombales

In just five months Ontario residents will head to the polls for the municipal election, and one organization is intent on making affordable housing a key voting issue.

The GTA population is set to grow to 9.7 million by 2041, but if new home construction continues at its current pace, there won’t be enough supply to meet the region’s booming population.

That’s the argument behind the Building Industry and Land Development Association’s (BILD) latest campaign, “Build for Growth,” which calls on GTA municipalities to make policy changes to increase the pace of new home development in the area.

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With 115,000 new residents set to move to the GTA every year, BILD estimates that 55,000 new homes will need to be constructed annually. In 2017, just 44,000 were built.

“There is simply not enough new housing being built to meet demand in the GTA, increasing prices and making affordability a challenge for many,” reads the campaign site.

“We’re talking about how we ensure the right policy framework is developed to address housing supply and affordability,” BILD president and CEO David Wilkes tells BuzzBuzzNews. “Each of the points [in the campaign] speaks to one or both of those objectives.”

In the last 14 years, development charges have increased between 236 and 878 per cent across the GTA, while inflation rose by 22 per cent, according to BILD.

“We certainly understand and accept that development has to pay for its share [of municipal infrastructure], but we believe that right now that’s not what’s happening,” says Wilkes.

He’s not the only one who thinks so — Bullpen Research & Consulting president Ben Myers says that GTA municipalities are overly reliant on new development fees.

“Property taxes in a lot of GTA municipalities are quite low,” he says. “So the costs of infrastructure isn’t being borne by existing residents, and there’s an overreliance on new housing.”

BILD also wants to see the amount of time needed to approve a development shortened.

“Right now it takes 10 or 11 years to complete [a development in the GTA], and that’s just not acceptable,” says Wilkes.

BILD suggests pre-designating land for development, updating local official plans, streamlining the list of conditions for municipal approvals as possible solutions.

“There have to be ways to ensure that the cost of new housing isn’t sitting unfairly on the shoulders of the developers,” Myers tells BuzzBuzzNews. “A lot of developers need two to three years to get a development approved, and land values are going up every single month. The process for getting a development approved needs to be streamlined.”

The campaign encourages GTA residents to contact their local candidate to discuss housing affordability in their area.

“If we don’t have an honest conversation about how to solve this problem, we’re going to be in trouble in the very near future,” says Wilkes. “We need this to be the housing election.”

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