In an ironic turn of events, Toronto City Planning is experiencing staff retention issues due, in part, to housing in Toronto being too expensive.

A report recently released by Toronto City Planning Chief Planner and Executive Director Gregg Lintern revealed that the vacancy rate in the City Planning department was just under 13% as of April 30, 2022.

"In what has been referred to as the 'great reassessment,' employees everywhere are reassessing their life choices including their employment opportunities," the report reads. "Employers too are reimaging their services and their operations for changing circumstances and evolving interests of employees. City Planning is not immune from these dynamics and indeed, many divisions across the City are challenged in the same manner given the labour market and the myriad of disciplines the City requires to provide the broad range of services necessary for a diverse City of 3 million people."

Constant promotions, resignations, and retirements are causing significant changes to the staffing situation, the report notes, with 25% of the current staff having been hired since January 2020. The recent pace of turnover is attributed to several factors, one of which being the cost of living in Toronto.

"Typically, people are spending much more than 30% of their income on housing in Toronto," the report states. "Depending on where you might be in your life, whether you have children or other dependencies or whether you require daycare or what your transportation needs are for a commute. These are all factors that make Toronto a comparatively expensive city for prospective employees."

Lintern's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Housing costs have skyrocketed all around the GTA, with the most recent Toronto Regional Real Estate Board data showing rental costs jumped 5.7% in just one month. A condo apartment in the GTA now averages $2,623 per month. The City has taken some steps to attempt to address the issue, such as passing a new Inclusionary zoning framework in the fall that will require condo developers to include 5-10% of units as affordable housing. And earlier this week, Toronto was given the green light by the Ontario Land Tribunal to allow garden suites across the city.

The City Planning report also notes issues with compensation for both unionized and non-unionized staff, saying that they "are not competitive with both public and private employers." The City, it says, is often outbid with an offering that sways employees to exit.

"This is perhaps taken centre stage much more so than it has in the past," the report says.

A challenging work/life balance due to the demanding and intense work often involved in city planning, as well as the department's inability to be flexible with vacation and benefit entitlements for new employees, have also been identified as contributing factors.

City Planning has been addressing recruitment challenges on a regular basis, the report says, including working with a dedicated team of HR consultants. But despite this, significant challenges in filling vacancies have persisted.