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GTA Land Supply Dwindles

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 11 September 2001 00:00

Ontario builders were not surprised to learn that the 2000 Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Residential Land Inventory Survey (GTARLI), jointly released by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) and the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), revealed the overall supply of land for housing fell by 17 per cent between 1998 and 2000. In 2000, there was land for 151,229 housing units in the GTA, compared to 182,166 units in 1998.

The greatest declines were registered in apartment lots where units were down 35.2 %, even though apartment supply remains the most adequate, ranging between 6.5 and 9.7 years. The stock of land for apartments has shifted north from Toronto's downtown core. Availability of single and row housing lots dropped 2.7% and 12.5 % respectively, while semi-detached units increased by 0.7%.

According to the annual Survey which monitors the GTA's residential land supply, several years of strong housing markets have reduced the supply of land available for housing, even though the GTA overall housing lot supply meets the provincial target for new homes. The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement's target is a three-year supply of draft-approved and registered lots. The duration of residential land supply is between 3.2 and 4.8 years across the GTA.

"A vibrant local economy driven by strong job growth, low mortgage rates, strong migration to the GTA, and tight resale markets has led to a brisk new home market since 1998," said Ted Tsiakopoulos, Market Analyst at CMHC.

"As a result," he continued, "housing construction has grown faster than new housing lots can be brought into the planning process. While the duration of supply for most dwelling types has declined from the 1998 survey, a cooler labour market, along with more accommodating local resale markets, suggest the pace of residential construction should slow, alleviating pressures on land supply over the next few years."

The GTARLI Survey, which began in 1994, gathers information on the number of residential lots in active development applications by dwelling type across the five GTA regions . Data are collected from municipal records as of January 1 each year.

"The Survey [shows] builders and home owners what direction urban growth will go -- will it be high or low rise?," explained Tsiakopoulos, who says the Survey takes about a year to compile. "Are we moving towards urban sprawl or are we working towards more of the type of smart-growth projects? We report on what happens to the supply and leave that discussion for other reports."

Will demand continue to outstrip supply? Statistics tell us that the GTA population is almost 3 times that of 1951, and today's 5.1 million residents -- Canada's largest urban concentration -- account for 16.4% of the country's population. Approximately 25% of Canadians live within a 160-kilometre (100-mile) radius of the city and the GTA is home to 42 % of the population of Ontario.

Projections forecast dramatic increases in the GTA population over the next decade. Can lot supply go anywhere but down, while prices continue to rise?

For more articles by P.J. Wade, please press here .

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