My Two-Page Submission to the Housing Affordability Task Force

I was recently invited to a consultation meeting of Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force. I thought you might be interested in my one-page submission.

Ontario will continue to have housing shortages if it continues to chronically underestimate population growth from international sources. It needs to better anticipate changes in international student policies and immigration targets from the federal government.

Consider the following three forecasts published by Hemson Consulting Limited, which were and are used to inform the provincial growth plan.

The Growth Plan (and the Hemson reports) define two broad regions: the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (GTAH), and the Outer Ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which implies a third Rest of Ontario region:

Source: H2020

The three reports contain a wealth of data and forecasts, including population forecasts by source.

For the GTAH, population forecasts from international sources (immigration and non-permanent residents) have been continually revised upwards during the release of each report, with population growth for the period 2016–21 from international sources being revised upward from 398,000 (Hemson-05) to 479,620 (Hemson-12) to 607,000 (Hemson-20), a “miss” of population growth from international sources by over 200,000 in the five-year 2016–21 period:

Similarly. population growth from international sources to the Outer Ring was revised upwards in each of the three reports, with the 2016–21 forecast more than doubled from Hemson-12 to Hemson-20.

Both Hemson-05 and Hemson-12 forecasted that population growth from international sources would be nearly identical from 2011–16 to 2016–21. It was not:

This underestimate of population growth helped contribute to the housing shortages we see across Ontario. The lack of family-friendly, climate-friendly housing has caused families to drive until they qualify to other parts of the province, in ways that was unanticipated by Hemson. Hemson-05 projected almost no population growth in the Rest of Ontario from interprovincial migration (that is, people moving, on net, out of the Greater Golden Horseshoe to the rest of the province). Instead, in just 2016–21 alone, the Rest of Ontario gained over 100,000 “drive until you qualify) migrants from the GGH.

In short, plans are only as strong as the assumptions that underlie them. And Ontario’s plans have been built on a foundation of sand. And unless the province changes how it forecasts population growth, it should expect more of the same.

Senior Director, Smart Prosperity. Assistant Prof, Ivey Business School. Exhausted but happy Dad of 2 wonderful kids with autism. I used to do other stuff.