On the housing shortage, mayoral candidates see the need for better solutions

Toronto's housing market is getting tighter and more expensive – is this the result of immigration, and what can the mayor do about it?

Toronto mayoral candidate Bahira Abdulsalam near the Ontario Science Centre on a sunny May afternoon.
Toronto mayoral candidate Bahira Abdulsalam near the Ontario Science Centre on a sunny May afternoon. Using her engineering background, Abdulsalam hopes to address issues in the city, such as housing, public transit and more. (Tianye Gu/Toronto Observer) 

Bahira Abdulsalam is an immigrant who is running for Toronto’s 2023 By-Election for Mayor.

She came to Toronto from Egypt a few years ago to complete her studies and currently lives in Toronto with her family. She believes that Toronto’s housing shortage needs to be addressed.

“We need to make strategic planning. We need to plan to find homes for people who are living in Toronto, solving their problems, and also for the newcomers,” Abdulsalam said.

Abdulsalam believes that immigrants “are providing human resources, great minds, and also contributing to the economy by buying homes, paying rents, buying cars, paying fees, and insurance.”

A city of immigrants

According to a data report from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, Ontario’s population grew by 125,920 people, due to international immigration in the fourth quarter of 2022.

In 2022, 159,679 immigrants came to Toronto, Statista counted.

The number of new immigrants arriving in Toronto and immigrants who have settled in Toronto has reached significant numbers. According to the the city of Toronto, there were 1,286,140 immigrants total in Toronto (46.6 percent of the population) in 2022.

Real estate agent James Lin said immigrants have affected 30 per cent of the rental and resale markets in these years. Those immigrants who bring money with them influence the price of housing.

And those immigrants who have not yet arrived in Canada with a stable, well-paying job are more likely to look to the rental market than to the home buying market, he said.

Immigration not the only factor in housing scarcity: expert

In Toronto, a large and well-funded immigrant population contributes to housing demand in Toronto’s housing market. However, Michael Haan, the Director of the Western Research Data Centre at Statistics Canada, believes that increasing immigration does not solely cause the housing scarcity issue.

Haan said that, alongside immigrant buyers and renters, the choice of baby boomers to “age in place” instead of moving to retirement residences, and their children’s entry into the housing market have exacerbated the pressure on the housing market.


How immigration affects economy and pricing

In addition to providing Canada with more labour, immigrants have contributed to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

According to data provided by the Government of Canada, immigration has boosted Canada’s economic fields by 75 per cent, boosting the country’s GDP.

The number of immigrants to Canada increased in 2021, according to material released at the Economic and Community Development Committee meeting.

Lin said that the arrival of immigrants had brought skills and a significant amount of capital to the local market, resulting in an inevitable upward trend in housing prices.

In response to this situation, Haan said, “Toronto is a city of newcomers, and I think most Torontonians appreciate that the benefits of immigration come with trade-offs.” 

Haan said that Toronto residents who own properties may understand that the value of their housing is mainly due to the demand from new immigrants.

Toronto mayoral candidate Bahira Abdulsalam and her supporter, Roman, discuss the city’s construction and infrastructure issues near the Ontario Science Centre on May 24, 2023. (Tianye Gu/Toronto Observer)

How can the city of Toronto solve the problems of housing scarcity and rising prices? 

The government has introduced several immigration programs and investments to balance the distribution of new immigrants nationwide. These policies aim to promote regional development and ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared across the country. Because of that, the number of new immigrants settling in Toronto has decreased compared to previous years.

According to the data provided by Statistics Canada, the proportion of newcomers settling in Canada’s three major urban centres continues to decline, from 56.0 per cent in 2016 to 53.4 per cent in 2021.

What the candidates say

As a professional engineer running for mayor in the City of Toronto, Abdulsalam said she would consider the city’s capacity and increase the housing supply. She would also utilize her academic knowledge to make future Toronto housing safer and more robust.

Other candidates also had their views on housing issues—for example, public accountability programs and support for people experiencing homelessness.

Torontonians go to the polls June 26 to elect their next mayor.

About this article

Posted: Jun 25 2023 8:30 pm
Filed under: Homes and Real Estate News Opinion Politics