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High housing prices blight lives – and widen the inequality gap

By Margaret Wente for The Globe and Mail

How high are house prices in Toronto? So high that even lawyers can’t afford to buy a house. At least one law firm has considered mortgage subsidies for its junior lawyers so that they won’t quit and move to somewhere cheaper. Tenants are getting hammered, too. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto has topped $2,000 – and the vacancy rate, at 1.1 per cent, is vanishingly small. According to a recent poll of young professionals by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, 42 per cent of respondents said they’re likely to leave the city because of high housing costs.

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Toronto and Vancouver have become what urban-affairs expert Joel Kotkin calls“exclusionary regions” for all but the most affluent new buyers. There’s no mystery about why. It’s a supply problem. There’s not enough housing to meet the demand. Governments have strangled supply through overly strict zoning rules and land-use regulations. In a new research paper, Benjamin Dachis and Vincent Thivierge of the C.D. Howe Institute have quantified just how much it’s costing us. “[Restrictions] and extra costs on building new housing – such as zoning regulations, development charges and limits on housing development … are dramatically increasing the price of housing,” they assert.


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