Cities need to more quickly approve higher density housing developments around rapidly expanding transit sites in the GTA and southern Ontario.

That's the message from Joe Vaccaro, the CEO of the Ontario Home Builders' Association (OHBA), in response to recent announcements by Metrolinx about GO Transit expansion and extensions into communities such as Kitchener, Hamilton and Niagara, all of which offer more affordable housing prices than Toronto.

Vaccaro is forecasting rapid growth in neighbourhoods surrounding and connected to expanding transit lines, such as GO, as more people who work in places such as Toronto decide to live outside the core of the GTA.

READ: Stoney Creek’s Confederation GO Station Could Boost Housing Market

“We’re seeing a lot of mid-rise and high-density development applications around transit nodes," said Vaccaro. "GO Transit has provided an unbelievable corridor for development.”

Applications for development have been skyrocketing in cities like Burlington and Hamilton, where people who work in the GTA core can get there in under an hour by train, offering more housing options.

A recent Toronto Storeys report by David Israelson showed that the Hurontario LRT in Mississauga and Brampton is already igniting development and growth.

The economic development offices in both Mississauga and  Brampton have been tracking significant development applications in near the LRT corridor since 2014, said Jamie Robinson, Director, Community Relations at Metrolinx.

READ: Kitchener-Toronto GO Commute Plan Approved For Completion By 2025

And a recent study from Canada’s national housing agency says GO stations in the Hamilton-Niagara region are already driving up the prices of homes.

The report by Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CHMC) found a direct link between the announcement and construction of new GO transit stations and increasing house prices.

In some cases, the report discovered, house prices went up as much as nine per cent prior to construction of a GO station.

Development in these GO hub communities has traditionally been greeted with concerns from the public and municipalities, but Vaccaro said with regular transit routes linking them to the core, it just makes sense to increase development.

Bill 108, The More Homes, More Choice Act, is a clear framework from the province that supports better housing options, Vaccaro said,  but the municipalities need to join in.

READ: GO Expansion Is Already Having A Big Impact On Niagara Housing Prices

Passed this past June by the Ontario Legislature, Bill 108,  aims to increase affordable housing in Ontario. Critics, however, say the bill gives developers a free hand to avoid contributing to the broader health of the communities they build in.

“Cities should be more comfortable with saying yes to higher density developments around transit nodes, considering the new legislation," said Vaccaro.

“If governments are going to spend billions on improving transit, new housing should match that investment, so those lines are always full and being used efficiently.”

It's predicted that Ontario's population will grow by 2.5 million people over the next 15 years. That means at least one million more homes are needed across the province, according to Vaccaro.

A new report from Re/Max forecasts that home prices in the City of Toronto will rise by 6 per cent in the coming year.

The increase will make the average cost of a resale approximately $812, 210. Currently, the average resale home price is $880,841 in Toronto, calculated between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of 2019.

READ: Hurontario LRT Already Igniting Development And Growth In Mississauga

That price includes both houses and condos.

Vaccaro cited Hamilton and Burlington, Barrie and Bowmanville as communities within commuting distance of Union Station where housing is much cheaper than Toronto and that have experienced development growth.

According to an Indeed survey, more than 60 per cent of Canadian employers now offer their employees the option to work remotely and many Canadians in the survey reported choosing flexibility over a higher salary or opportunities for career advancement.

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