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Housing completions in Toronto from 1996 to 2014

Whenever I read studies that cite census data, I’m often left feeling like the data is out-of-date. 

Five years – which is how often Canada conducts its national census – is a long time. Somebody could move to this country for school, complete a 4-year degree, and then leave, and we wouldn’t even pick it up in our data.

Thankfully, we’ve at least reinstated the long-form census for next year. Here are the questions, if you’re curious.

But all of this is a digression. 

This morning I read through a housing report that the City of Toronto published in October of this year. It’s about housing trends. And I wanted to share the below chart that covers housing completions for the period of 1996 to 2014. Keep in mind that this is for the City of Toronto, and not the Greater Toronto Area.

What it shows is that over this 18 year period, 78% of all housing completions in this city have been either low-rise or high-rise condominiums/apartments. The remaining 22% is a mix of detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses.

However, this 22% is an average. 

Detached and semi-detached housing completions declined from 22% in the 1996-2001 period to 10% a decade later. And row and townhouses declined from 16% to 6% during this same period.

At the same time, “many” of the housing units in this 22% were actually replacing existing and older housing stock. That is, according to the report, many were “knock-downs” and rebuilds. In these cases, it means that the completions actually do not represent net new housing units. So in reality, the supply of new single-family housing is even lower than it appears in the chart above.

When you look at all of this, it should come as no surprise to you that our current combination of low interest rates and low supply has been leading to huge price increases on the single-family side of the market.

And it’s for this reason that I believe Toronto will eventually start to look towards allowing more low-rise intensification. Laneway housing, as one example, would represent virtually 100% new ground-related housing in already built up areas. Where else are we going to find that kind of housing opportunity?

So in my view, it is a question of when, not if, this will happen.

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