The Government of Canada initiated the creation of the National Housing Strategy in order to provide affordable housing for all Canadians. The project called "Let's Talk Housing" gives the opportunity to Canadians to express and share their ideas on how to improve the housing situation in the country.
Richard Silver and Jim Burtnick were at the first meeting with the representatives of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), where they witnessed an exchange of intensive ideas on how both government and private organizations can meaningfully collaborate to cater the housing needs of all Canadians.
The talks revolved around providing amenities such as housing to Canadians that not only satisfy their needs but also suit their budget.
There was discussion about how government as well as school land, which is currently vacant, can be utilised in the best possible manner for accommodation purposes. The focus was on having a higher density in terms of population in the downtown as well as uptown core.
Q. What is the government’s objective and plan to achieve it?
Richard: The objective is to have more condos and rental apartments instead of detached properties to accommodate more and more people. Small is the new big. In a space where we can have a detached house for one single family, there is a need to have apartments that can accommodate hundreds of people. The living space will be small but our aim is to provide a roof to the constantly growing population in metropolitan cities like Toronto.
Q. Do you believe that this change will resonate with Torontonians’ requirements and demand?
Richard: Of course, Toronto is moving on line of metropolitan cities like Manhattan where more and more people are making downtown their place of residence. Identical changes are taking place in Toronto at a steady pace as people do not want to spend much of their time on long hours of driving. Solid infrastructure, excellent subway and expensive parking spaces have also witnessed a major shift in people opting to live downtown or close to it. Thus, there is an increasingly growing demand to have more and more units in the heart of the city.
Jim Burtnick echoed Silver’s views on people choosing to not only work but also live in downtowns.
Q. Can you explain the demographic changes that would incline people to like living in downtown?
Jim: A large chunk of the younger generation is occupying downtown as their lifestyle. Their attitude and preferences are quite different from their parents’. People in this demography are environment friendly and do not believe in owning cars. They compromise their small condo space for amenities such as swimming pools, health clubs, etc that are some of the benefits that come with condo living. They enjoy theatres, discovering neighbourhood restaurants and mostly they are in their units just to sleep.
Q. How do you plan to meet the challenge of large influx of people moving to live downtown?
Jim: This shift in our society is not a new phenomenon. Cities like New York or Tokyo have been experiencing this immense surge for a long time. We have to be more creative and innovative to satisfy this rising demand of having more laneway housing, which is the future of affordable urban living especially if you want young families and professionals to live in Toronto.
In addition to making Toronto more attractive, the City has embarked on a bold initiative to build a 21-acre park called Rail Deck Park that encompasses the rail corridor between Bathurst St. and Blue Jays Way. It is popularly being dubbed Toronto's Central Park. It is one of the many initiatives in the city to attract new residents and retain current population.
Q. Besides being close to work place what are the other reasons for people moving downtown?
Jim: Proximity to their place of work is not the sole reason why people are attracted to downtown living; they enjoy the hustle and bustle that comes with this kind of lifestyle. The aim is not only to provide facilities within the residential buildings but also to make the neighbourhood entertaining, interesting and safe for its current and future occupants.
Q. What is the role of the city authorities in checking migration from the big towns like Toronto?
Jim: It is always a challenge for cities like Toronto to retain its professional population who mostly move away to nearby small towns because of lack of affordable housing. The latest resolve is a concrete proof that the city authorities have this issue in mind. They have worked on their resolve by extending their hand to private bodies to curtail migration by not only providing reasonable accommodation but also constructing new attractions, and at the same time strengthening the existing ones.