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New rental apartments in Toronto by year of construction

“Your local self-inflicted housing criss ouroboros” tweeted this chart out over the weekend, showing the number of new rental suites completed in Toronto since 1900. The data is from Open Data Toronto and it does not include any condominiums. It also only includes apartment buildings with 10 or more suites (which would be most of the supply anyway).

This chart is a good example of what we spoke about yesterday: “If you want to negatively impact new supply, cap rental growth.” And that’s exactly what was done in the 1970s. But in reality, the changes were more broad than this. The 1970s saw a philosophical shift in the way Canada thought about new housing.

Housing became rightly viewed as a basic human right. But because of this, the policy landscape shifted away from facilitating the private sector, to intervening and regulating the private sector. This included tax changes which negatively impacted new housing development and, yes, rent controls.

Ironically, but not unexpectedly, this dramatically lowered the overall supply of new rental housing. To the point where we had effectively shut off the taps by the late 1990s. Thankfully, the condominium sector stepped in and started meaningfully delivering new housing — both for sale and for rent (via individual private investors).

The supply of new condominiums in Toronto is not shown above, but there is no question that this (shadow rentals) has formed the vast majority of our new rental stock over the last two decades. But in my view, this shift was largely the result of policy decisions. We decided that we didn’t want the private sector building so many new purpose-built rentals, and so we told them to stop.

It then listened remarkably well.

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