A lack of affordable homes that is increasingly causing young professionals to look outside of the region for employment is starting to threaten the city’s “ability to attract and retain a world-class workforce,” says the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The business organization has released a “Housing Policy Playbook” in advance of the June provincial election in which it puts forward five ideas that the next premier could borrow to ease the housing crunch.

The proposals include implementing zoning changes to encourage “mixed-used development above and around transit systems,” and working with cities to reduce red tape that sometimes slows the awarding of construction permits for new condominiums and apartment buildings.

The TRBOT is also calling for the reversal of an April, 2017 decision by Premier Kathleen Wynne to extend rent controls to new apartment buildings, which it says has effectively resulted in a “disincentives for developers.” The playbook notes that the rental vacancy rate in Toronto is currently less than one per cent, which has in turn aggravated the affordability crisis.

“Right now, a lack of affordable homes and long commutes are pushing newcomers and young professionals outside the region and our businesses struggle to compete as a result,” Toronto Region Board of Trade President and CEO Janet De Silva said in a press release. “The board is calling for more homes—of the right size and in the right place—to be built for workers with families so companies can attract and retain the talent our dynamic job force requires.”

More than four in 10 young professionals are likely to leave GTA

The Toronto Region Board of Trade conducted a poll of young professionals last year and found that 42 per cent of respondents were likely to leave the GTA because of the high cost of housing. The young professionals also indicated that there is an insufficient supply of what the TRBOT called the “missing middle” options when it comes to housing. Those options included condominium units with three or more bedrooms (79 per cent of respondents said the supply was insufficient) and townhouses (62 per cent said the supply was insufficient). Only 15 per cent of respondents said the region needs more one-bedroom condominium units.

With the region’s population expected to increase by one million people over the next decade, the playbook makes the case that “governments need to act now to increase the amount and variety of housing available to residents.”

It says that the province can do its part by borrowing a program from British Columbia, in which licensed engineers and architects complete third-party project reviews and provide a letter assuring compliance with the building code to municipalities.

“This would relieve municipal planning departments of a substantial burden, allowing them to focus on enforcement and auditing. By better utilizing licensed professionals—legally responsible for adhering to the building code—approvals can be expedited without sacrificing quality,” the playbook states.

More variety of homes is needed

The average price of a home in Toronto was $736,783 in January, though the average price for a detached home was much higher at $1,283,981.

In its housing playbook, the Toronto Region Board of Trade says that amid prices that are now out of reach for many residents, the provincial government must amend its planning act to encourage the construction of more affordable types of housing, such as condominiums and laneway and coach houses.

It also cited the results of its 2017 poll, which found that 74 per cent of young professionals support efforts to increase densification in order to reduce the cost of housing

“While the province has the power to compel densification around transit stations, this authority is rarely used and comes with no clear enforcement mechanism. Amending the planning act to improve enforcement of densification around transit stations is an important step for building new housing,” the playbook states.

The TRBOT has previously released two other playbooks on energy policy and transit policy ahead of the June election.