Fifty-seven per cent of Toronto-area voters say they strongly agree it is increasingly difficult to own a home in the region and 38 per cent say housing affordability is among their top three issues going into next month’s municipal election.
Concern about the high cost of housing is disproportionately affecting women, millennials and renters, according to an Ipsos poll released Wednesday.
Mortgages and rents are affecting how much residents save for retirement and their children’s education and impacting whether they have one or more children, says the research for the home builders association and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).
The poll indicates that residents’ worry about the cost of housing is on par with crime and infrastructure, both of which ranked in the top three election issues with 39 per cent of respondents. Among nine issues on the poll question, only property taxes registered as a greater concern — among the top three with 45 per cent of those polled.
High profile areas such as transit, social services, traffic and parks all polled lower among the 1,503 residents.
The poll is intended to put housing issues front and centre in the election, and the social implications are the key takeaway, he said.
Forty per cent of respondents indicated housing costs were affecting their retirement savings; 34 per cent said it was stopping them from making major purchases or taking vacations; and a quarter of residents said they couldn’t afford to buy a home.
A further 12 per cent said housing costs were affecting savings for their children’s education, and 11 per cent said it affected their decision to have a child.
“People are putting off having children… These are significant life decisions that are being impacted: saving for retirement, if they will be able to retire; trying to make decisions about maybe supporting a family member,” said Sherwood.
Renters, millennials and women were the most concerned with housing costs. Sixty-two per cent of Toronto-area renters — a group that represents about a third of households in the region — put the price of shelter among their top three issues compared to 26 per cent of homeowners. Forty-three per cent of women cited housing as a top issue versus 32 per cent of men.
Among millennials — adults under age 35 — 48 per cent cited housing as a top concern, compared to 42 per cent of those 35 to 54 years old and 25 per cent of respondents over 55.
Across the board, 41 per cent of poll respondents expressed concern over young people’s ability to afford housing.
“This whole thing about housing and people being concerned about affordability, I think it cuts across all demographic groups,” said the real estate board’s Von Palmer.
“It all brings it back to there’s an inadequate choice, there’s not enough supply (of housing). We have to start looking at zoning rules to allow for more of that missing middle type housing — semis, rows, multi-units, clustered town homes — we don’t have enough of that. From an affordability point of view that’s a concern,” said Palmer.
BILD and the real estate board say that, while they pushed the same issues in the June provincial election, there’s a significant role for municipal policy-makers, too.
“A lot of things that need to happen to bring in more supply has to happen at the municipal level,” said Palmer. “When push comes to shove and you look at the real issues that need to be tackled like zoning rules or taxation at the local level — property tax, red tape — these are all locally driven even though it flows from provincial legislation. Ultimately implementation happens at the local level.”
Builders are struggling with bureaucracy that slows down their ability to bring new housing on the market, said Sherwood.
“Municipalities can find ways to cut red tape,” he said.
The Toronto region needs about 50,000 homes annually to meet the demand, said Sherwood.
“Last year we were able to build 38,000. We’re consistently short,” he said.
The online Ipsos poll between Aug. 20 and 23 is considered accurate within 2.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.