Corp Comm Connects

Meeting province's housing deadline will be challenge: York Region
Sept. 11, 2023

York Region continues to grow housing with 151,000 units at various stages of the housing pipeline but may struggle to bring those to fruition fast enough for provincial targets.

Staff presented an update on housing progress to the region’s affordability task force Sept. 7. As of the end of August, the region has about 44,076 units that are registered or draft approved, with 107,000 units subject to active planning applications. Besides those, an additional 18,950 units are currently under construction.

However, the report said the region will struggle to get enough units built to meet provincial housing targets.

“Nobody believes that building permits will dramatically increase the next three years,” Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said.

Across all nine municipalities, the province has said the region should target 150,000 units by 2031, although Newmarket’s target of 12,000 units may be decreased. Although the units in the works would exceed this, chief planner Paul Freeman noted that not all units come to fruition, and the targets significantly outpace what the region has managed.

Historically, the region has achieved 7,100 new units annually over the last 10 years and expects to manage 8,000 units annually over the next 10 years. The provincial targets would require the region to build 16,700 units annually up to 2031. Of York Region’s nine municipalities, only East Gwillimbury’s housing targets are close to its historic growth rate.

Freeman also said new infrastructure will need to be built out to accommodate all the new units, with sewage allocation remaining at issue.

Manager of integrated growth management Paul Bottomley said staff are undertaking several initiatives to get closer to provincial targets, including helping streamline approvals, making sure there is a fair distribution of servicing capacity and providing more infrastructure promptly moving forward.

Taylor said municipalities have to communicate the housing target issue to the province together, especially with the province proposing to tie infrastructure funding to meeting targets.

“What’s at stake here is the future financial sustainability of municipalities,” Taylor said.

The report also highlighted a lack of rental development, with only five per cent of new rental households being purpose-built rentals. Between 2001 and 2022, York Region has only gone from 4,761 private apartment rental units to 5,625, which would only include private-market purpose-built rental buildings.

“We know the data, now it’s time for the solutions,” Freeman said. “This is the heart of it, the purpose-built rental and what we can do to move forward with that. We’ll do everything we can to do that with your help.”