As Toronto's population continues to grow at a rapid rate, workers are struggling to find affordable housing, forcing them to move out of the region and into other areas in the province. Because of this, a new report suggests the city should look at alternative solutions to fixing the city's housing crisis.

This could include major employers providing workers with housing, according to the report, which was prepared by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and WoodGreen.

In Housing a Generation of Workers, the organizations investigate the urgent challenges associated with finding affordable housing in Toronto, especially for those working in sectors like healthcare, education, and hospitality.

“Toronto’s continued economic growth depends on finding an answer to the increasingly urgent problem of housing workers,” states Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

“Major companies will not continue to invest in our region if we lose the cooks, tradespeople, and childcare workers that allow our city to function. The business community needs to be part of the solution.”

READ: Toronto’s Rapid Population Growth Could Cause Housing Crisis: Expert

The report uses Silicon Valley as a cautionary tale, where, despite having a record number of well-paying jobs and the highest average wages worldwide in 2019, homelessness has risen by 17% in addition to losing up to one-fifth of all teachers in a school district each year.

The stark reality is, Toronto's numbers aren't too far off, according to the report. From 2016 to 2019, over 325,000 new jobs were created in Toronto but only 102,000 new homes were built or approved.

Moreover, within the past five years, only 2% of new housing has been deemed affordable and as a result, between 2017 and 2018, 50,000 people moved out of the Toronto area for other regions of Ontario. This loss of talent can lead to significant economic and social costs for the city.

In Toronto, the median income has climbed to $71,631, while over 9,200 people are homeless every night, showing that "warning signs" are in the air.

"Toronto’s continued economic growth depends on finding an answer to this increasingly urgent problem before it is too late," states the report.

"When a city becomes unaffordable, it forces out key industry workers (or “key workers”) – such as cooks, social workers, nurses, tradespeople, childcare workers, and teachers. Without people to fill these jobs, businesses suffer and the city becomes less livable for everyone."

And a viable solution to this is implementing workforce housing, which the report says is one way to help relieve pressures on social housing by freeing up in-demand affordable units.

READ: Bank of Canada Holding Interest Rates as Concerns Over Housing Affordability Continue

By using other cities with dedicated housing for workers, including in Canada, the US, and the UK, as examples, the business group and community agency put together recommendations that would accelerate the development of workforce housing in Toronto.

This includes:

  • Engage non-traditional partners, such as school boards, universities and employers, who have land assets that can be developed to provide workforce housing.
  • Practice strong community engagement to help ease concerns and address questions about the development of workforce housing.
  • Start with the needs of the beneficiaries of a project, to improve outcomes.
  • Encourage government leaders to support long-term strategies that will deliver the housing Toronto needs.
  • “The statistics, trends, and residents all tell the same story: housing in Toronto is increasingly unaffordable, unsuitable, and unavailable,” said Anne Babcock, President and CEO of WoodGreen.

    “The good news is there is still time to act, and Toronto can benefit from the experience and successes of alternative approaches, involving non-traditional actors. Building dedicated housing for workers – or workforce housing – is one approach that broadens the pool of organizations taking responsibility for ensuring employees have a place to live.”