An Ontario landlords’ association wants the province to test new zoning rules in areas around transit, declining strip malls and underused industrial land to encourage the development of more purpose-built apartments.
It would be a start in stemming a deepening rental crisis that could see Ontario short of up to 100,000 units in another decade.
Tony Irwin, CEO of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), said he’s not arguing for greater density in established neighbourhoods. But approval times, neighbourhood opposition, development charges and other government fees are adding costs that make rental development less viable.
One solution would be to allow builders to save on the cost of land by intensifying “unicorn sites” — properties with existing rental buildings that have room for more, he told an Empire Club lunch on Tuesday. Those sites “represent untapped potential to put new units on the market without any cost to buy new land,” he said.
“Projects underway today are based on land prices from two or three years ago,” Irwin said. “Land in Toronto may have been valued at $75 a buildable square foot then. Today, land prices have tripled or quadrupled meaning many projects you see in the queue would not proceed if the decision was being made today.”
An updated study for the association by market research firm Urbanation shows that Ontario needs to build 7,000 to 10,000 new rental units a year. In 2017, that number was predicted to be 6,000. Even though rental housing development is up, it is far outstripped by the demand driven by a booming population, high employment and declining home ownership, says Urbanation’s report.