Toronto’s housing crisis is costing us all billions. Does city hall care?


We can argue about exactly when Toronto’s housing crisis started, but it seems reasonable at this point to say that we’re in at least the second decade of a shortage of roofs that has forced growing numbers of people to either struggle badly to make a living here or simply leave the province’s largest city altogether — something people are doing by the thousands every year in search of more affordable homes to raise families in.

A new report from the Toronto Region Board of Trade and WoodGreen Community Services tries to put some numbers to the broader costs of the housing crisis in the region. “Broader” costs, because we’re not just talking about the fact that homes are immensely expensive to buy or rent in the GTA. Rather, the report’s authors wanted to try and put some numbers to the drag that high housing costs pose for the regional economy.

The estimate — which TRBT’s Craig Ruttan and WoodGreen’s Michelle German both stress almost certainly doesn’t actually capture the full picture — is that Toronto’s housing crisis is costing the regional economy between $6 billion and $8 billion annually. Most of that estimate comes from two intuitive impacts of the region’s high housing prices: Employers need to pay more to retain workers in Toronto than they would elsewhere in the province. And, in cases where even the GTA wage premium isn’t good enough, workers are decamping to other regions (elsewhere in Ontario or farther afield), hurting the region’s long-term economic picture.