News and Blogs

To solve the housing crisis, we must get government building housing again

Photo by Zia Syed on Unsplash

In Canada, the rent is too damn high — and it’s shaking political parties and coalitions to their core. Roaring rents and prices are destroying lives, shattering dreams and scattering families across the country as young people and young families search for places they can afford to live.

Much of the public discussion on a solution has centred on land-use reform: altering zoning to allow denser housing construction.

Predictably, there is little to no movement on land-use reform from Canada’s right-wing leaders. Doug Ford’s Conservatives recently rejected a very modest proposal to legalize building fourplexes in Ontario. And Federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, despite his talk, refuses to call Ford out — although he is now Canada’s most famous NIMBY.

It is the left that is looking to remove red tape to promote development, with David Eby’s government in B.C. arguably the nation’s leader.

Land use changes are absolutely necessary. But we should be clear: on their own, these changes can’t return Canadian housing to affordability — not any time soon.

To bring down rents substantially, homes that are newly legalized must actually be built — and at a sufficient speed and scale to bring prices down.

I’m an optimist. I won’t say that this is impossible. But as the inimitable Mike Moffatt has pointed out, given the scale of our housing shortage, this will take decades.

We cannot wait for the market to fix itself.

This is a moment that calls for bold thinking. But it is also a moment that calls for old thinking. Because to solve today’s crisis, we should look at how Canada successfully solved the housing crises of the past.

Jen Hassum is the Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute.

Read the full article published in the Toronto Star on April 2, 2024.