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Research Reports

Research is a primary activity of the centre.  As specified in the Mission, it will be undertaken to inform local policy decisions regarding the economic aspects of current conditions, policy issues and policy choices.  The research themes, topics, and projects will be determined and undertaken based on the advice of the Advisory Committee and under the direction of the Management Committee. 


"Who Is Being Left Behind in the GTA Housing Market? A Profile of Core Housing Need,  1991-2018"

February 25, 2021 - There has been a flurry of interest in recent years by all levels of government on the provision of affordable housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). A wide variation exists in what people mean by “affordability”, however. We have observed that policy-makers are increasingly applying it to the difficulties middle-income households are having in finding acceptable housing at a price or rent they can afford. While governments are devoting significant resources to help these households, less attention is being given to the affordability problems of low-income households. This paper seeks to address this obvious shortcoming.

Using the Core Housing Need (CHN) metric formulated by CMHC, the paper documents trends in CHN over time by tenure and looks at the most recent data by location and household characteristics.

Highlights include: about 400,000 GTA households are in CHN with the majority being renters living in the city of Toronto. Most households in CHN are living in acceptable housing but are paying too much for it.

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"Pre-Zoning Corridor Lands to a Higher Density - A Necessary but Not Sufficient Prerequisite for Increasing Housing Supply Elasticity"

April 20, 2020 - The Kingston Road Revitalization Study for the Birchcliff community corridor (avenue) in former Scarborough was launched by the City of Toronto in 2004. The Study resulted in a number of zoning changes permitting higher densities, aimed at encouraging new residential development. The enactment of these zoning changes along this corridor is used here as a case study to see whether pre-zoning avenue land for denser development has increased the price elasticity of housing supply in response to demand.
This report concludes that pre-zoning avenues for higher densities is no panacea for ensuring serviced sites are available for development in response to increased market demand. It alone does not do enough to ensure that housing supply is able to respond quickly to demand. It is, however, a step in the right direction, in that Toronto's zoning should better reflect appropriate planning for current market conditions.

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Toronto skyline over Lake Ontario

"Upbeat Outlook for the GTHA Economy to Continue to Stoke Home Prices and Rents: Housing Affordability to Remain Challenged"

February 6, 2020 - The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board ("TRREB") requested that the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University study the future drivers of economic activity in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area ("GTHA") and how these future economic prospects will impact housing affordability.

What's in store for the GTHA economy and housing markets over the next decade? The region is expected to continue to churn out a healthy amount of high-paying jobs. This is good news for the wave of immigrants coming to the region in search of work and for Millennials and Generation Zers entering the job market. However, according to Frank Clayton and Diana Petramala, the authors of the report, the supply of new housing in the region is not expected to grow fast enough to meet the needs of this growing population. Housing costs are expected to continue to outstrip household income growth over the next decade and affordability will remain challenged.

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View Frank Clayton's presentation at TRREB's Economic Outlook Summit

"Something to Think About: What Is Driving Declining Population Mobility in the Greater Toronto Area?"

July 22, 2019 - In this initial analysis, CUR looks at factors that could have contributed to declining population mobility in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) between 2006 and 2016.

Our top finding: a shortage of newly built ground-related homes (singles, semis and townhouses) likely was a major contributor to the decline in household mobility.

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"CUR’s Top 10 Takeaways from Statistics Canada’s Latest Population Estimates for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH)"

June 21, 2019 - In this report, CUR presents the top ten highlights from StatsCan's 2018 population growth estimates for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).

Among the most interesting trends are a growth spurt in the City of Toronto led by temporary immigration; a slump in population growth in York Region and an exodus of Millennials and Generation X from more urban areas to more affordable suburban areas like Simcoe County. 

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"How Land-Use Is Fuelling the Workplace Gender Gap in the Greater Golden Horseshoe"

March 8, 2019 - For the last six months, Diana Petramala at the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University (CUR) has been researching the impact that land-use planning can have on gender inequality in the workplace. CUR wanted to release some of this research to celebrate International Women's Day.

As a result of our research, we found that women (particularly millennial women) in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) are less likely to work than those living in other parts of Canada. The divergence in female labour force participation rates between the GGH and the rest of Canada suggests that a regional factor has resulted in relatively fewer highly educated women remaining in the job market. While access to daycare is certainly one factor in this equation, we argue that commute times may also play a role.

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"How Much Room Does the City of Toronto Have for Increasing Residential Property Taxes?"

February 28, 2019 - The City of Toronto faces a growing financial challenge in its need to replace deteriorating infrastructure and to add new infrastructure in response to demands from population growth.

A new CUR analysis, authored by Senior Research Fellow Frank Clayton, concludes that Toronto has room to increase its average property tax rate on owner-occupied homes by approximately 20% to fund infrastructure and still be in the middle of the range of taxes levied by 28 other municipalities within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

At the time of the 2016 Census of Canada, Toronto’s effective property tax rate (taxes as a percent of the market value of owner-occupied homes) and average property tax burden (taxes as a percent of household income) were both approximately 20 percent less than the median-ranked municipality in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

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"Townhouses Not a Magic Bullet for GTA Ground-Related Housing Affordability"

October 11, 2018 - This paper, authored by Frank Clayton, Senior Research Fellow, examines townhouses as an option for affordable ground-related housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The report finds that while new townhouses (generally regarded as a form of "missing middle" housing) are less expensive than new single-detached houses, they remain out of reach for many prospective buyers. This is largely because the cost of serviced land for townhouse development is inordinately high.

The report recommends enhancing townhouse affordability by: (a) greatly increasing the supply of serviced sites for both greenfield and intensification development, and (b) reducing government-imposed costs on new housing, especially development charges.

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"Reality Hits Home: Job Creation a Challenge for Complete Communities in the GGH"

July 25, 2018 - Creating complete communities throughout the region - those with a mix of residential and employment uses allowing for local live/work/shop/play lifestyles - has been a cornerstone of both Ontario's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006) and the 2017 revised version.

However, this policy ideal collides painfully with economic reality. 

Looking closer at the extent and location of job creation over the first decade of the plan (2006-2016), we find that actual employment growth does not support this objective in many municipalities throughout the GGH. The City of Toronto has greatly overachieved in its job creation, while the Outer Ring, with the exception of Wellington County, (including Guelph), has generally fallen behind. The four municipalities most challenged in terms of creating employment for complete communities have been Hamilton Durham, Niagara, and the Waterloo Region.

Given our analysis, we suggest provincial policymakers revisit the growth plan, to bring a closer correspondence between policy objective and economic reality.

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eldery person holding toy house in hand

"Millennials in the GTHA: A Generation Stuck in Apartments?"

May 22, 2018 - While condo apartments in the 416 proved an affordable and attractive living option for younger Millennials over the last decade, many of them are entering a stage where they will prioritize space and affordability over amenities and access to transit. We expect they will want all the same things their parents did as they age and move up the income ladder, including marriage, children and homeownership of ground-related housing.  


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"Millennials in the GTHA: A Generation Stuck in Apartments"

May 22, 2018 - Millenials are growing faster than any other demographic group in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and will represent the largest source of housing demand over the next decade. As they move through their prime working and housing demand years, the pressure on the housing market will be substantial. Examining current trends, this report challenges common perceptions about Millenial preferences and examines the potential impact of this demographic as it moves through its live cycle. Ultimately the Report contends, with housing prices out-pacing wages, affordable home ownership is slipping out of reach.

"Millennials in the GTHA: A Generation Stuck in Apartments"

May 22, 2018 - Millenials are growing faster than any other demographic group in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and will represent the largest source of housing demand over the next decade. As they move through their prime working and housing demand years, the pressure on the housing market will be substantial. Examining current trends, this report challenges common perceptions about Millenial preferences and examines the potential impact of this demographic as it moves through its live cycle. Ultimately the Report contends, with housing prices out-pacing wages, affordable home ownership is slipping out of reach.

Critique of 2016 Employment Surveys and Economic Nuggets: GTA Municipalities

November 20, 2017 - A new CUR report examines the extent to which the 2016 employment surveys conducted by various municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) can be aggregated to portray employment trends in the region as a whole.
It concluded that while the individual employment surveys as currently designed are unable to provide reliable estimates of GTA employment in a given year or to monitor employment growth over time, they do provide some interesting insights into differences in economic structures and growth dynamics between municipalities in the year 2016.

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Overriding Preference for Ground-Related Housing by GTA Millennials and Other Recent and Prospective Buyers

September 26, 2017 - This report updates a CUR report released a year ago which reviewed a number of surveys of actual and likely homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in terms of the types of housing actually or intended to purchase. That study concluded: (a) GTA housing preferences strongly favour ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses and (b) these preferences cross all age groups of buyers including millennials.
This report reviews four recent consumer surveys providing information on the types of housing likely buyers state they are intending to buy or, in the case of first-time buyers (who are mostly millennials) the types of homes actually purchased.

In terms of all likely buyers regardless of age, the update reinforces the resiliency of the penchant for ground-related homes, especially single-detached houses, in the city of Toronto and the 905 regions of the GTA as found in our previous study.

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Modernizing Building Approvals in Ontario: Catching Up with Advanced Jurisdictions 

July 5, 2017 - New-home buyers are impacted by Ontario’s arduous wait on building and occupancy permits, which ultimately delays and reduces the supply of new houses and condos from entering the market.

This report focuses on routine and technical components of the regulatory process, excluding rezoning and other regulatory processes that are more political and often require public consultation. The study identifies where delays in the building permit process occur, some of the costs associated with these delays, and what can be done to modernize the approval process. 

Streamlining the Development and Building Approvals Process in Ontario, July 2017 Report 

Streamlining the Development and Building Approvals Process in Ontario, July 2018 Follow-Up Report 


Why are there not more townhouses being built in the Greater Toronto Area and what is the outlook? 

May 30, 2017 - The fundamental question being addressed in a new report authored by CUR's Frank Clayton and Cameron Macdonald is why have the construction of townhouses been lower and not increasing across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) since the first half of the 2000s. With the sharply reduced affordability of single-detached homes and the Province’s planning interventions favouring townhouses and other denser forms of housing over single-detached houses, the expectation would have been for townhouse starts to increase, not to decline.

The number of townhouse starts in the GTA declined from an average of about 6,800 units per year in 2001-2005 to about 5,000 units in 2006-2016, a drop of about 25 percent. Sharp declines were recorded in both the 905 area and the City of Toronto. A scarcity of serviced sites is identified as a primary cause of the decline in townhouse construction.

The report concludes that there is a pressing need for the Province to recognize the challenge of augmenting the supply of new townhouses in the GTA and to require municipalities in the 905 area and the City of Toronto to significantly increase the supply of serviced sites for townhouses within their boundaries – the former on greenfield sites and the latter on lower-priority employment (industrial) lands.

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Exterior of Suburban home

Toronto has Plenty of Room for Increasing Residential Property Taxes

February 13, 2017 - This report utilizes a comparative approach of 26 municipalities within the Greater Toronto Area to reach conclusions about the capacity for the City of Toronto to increase residential property taxes to finance its infrastructure requirements and ongoing services without resorting to new tax sources.
The bottom line is the City of Toronto has the capacity to increase its average property tax levied on homeowners by 17 percent to 23 percent if the taxes paid by homeowners in the median-ranked GTA municipality excluding Toronto is applied as a benchmark. In fact, it is likely the capacity exists to raise taxes even more than this conservative benchmark as long as Toronto taxpayers are aware of and support the services funded by the additional taxes.

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October 3, 2016 -Ongoing information on employment trends and patterns at the municipal, and even sub-municipal level is required by municipal land-use planners, economic development personnel, economists, and others interested in urban economic performance.

The purpose of this paper is to determine how useful the employment surveys conducted by the municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are in portraying accurate employment and businesses trends for the entire GTA and its individual municipalities.

The review of the municipal surveys conducted between 2011 and 2015 revealed that the available data does not provide an accurate portrayal of total employment, total businesses and annual changes in employment/businesses for the entire GTA. The analysis of the employment and business data raised doubts about the reliability of the annual results published by some of the municipalities. Changes to the municipal surveys are needed in order to provide annual data that accurately represents employment and business trends by individual municipality as well as for the entire GTA.

Four options were evaluated for the collection of more reliable and complete employment and business establishment data for the GTA, or indeed, the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe. The option having the potential to be the most cost effective and providing the most accurate employment and business establishment information for individual municipalities and for the GTA as a whole is the option is having Statistics Canada provide the information based on its current Canadian Business Patterns (CBP) database expanded to include exact employment counts for businesses rather than ranges of employment as at present.

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August 15, 2016 - The willingness of GTA residents to forgo ground-related homes for apartments in location-efficient communities is an important issue for determining the impacts of land use plans that restrict the supply of serviced land for ground-related housing on housing affordability. This holds even if the plans proactively encourage the creation of more sites for apartments.

According to a new report released by the Centre, the view that many households in the GTA would willingly give up single-detached houses to move into higher density housing in location-efficient communities is wrong. Urban policies which try to force this by constraining the supply of new ground-related housing will lead to even higher house prices, sub-optimal location choices, and huge capital gain windfalls for the lucky owners of existing houses and vacant lands on which new ground-related homes could be built.

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July 6, 2016 - This report updates previous population tables from Population Dynamics in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – Millennials vs. Baby Boomers  for 2006-2014 using population estimates from Statistics Canada for 2015. While the earlier study found that millennials were flocking to the city of Toronto, the latest population data for the 12 months ending July 1, 2015 show otherwise:

  • The city of Toronto recorded a smaller growth in its millennial population between 2014 and 2015 than the suburban regions of Peel and York – 2,200 persons vs. 5,300 and 3,900 persons, respectively.

Could this much slower growth in the city of Toronto millennials along with the more rapid growth in Peel and York regions indicate millennials are making a move to more suburban communities in search of more single-detached houses?

For now, it is too early to say, as these population data are only estimates by Statistics Canada which are subject to major revisions. Once the 2016 Census of Canada population counts are released in 2017, we will be able to get a clearer picture of demographic changes that have occurred in the GGH since last Census in 2011. 

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city skyline


November 19, 2015 - This report analyzes population growth patterns by municipality within the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) by component and generation for the period 2011-2014 with comparisons to patterns of the preceding five years. There is a particular focus on the behaviour of two generations – millennials (ages 17-33 in 2014) and baby boomers (ages 50-68 in 2014). Highlights of the statistical analysis are:

  • There are about the same number of millennials and baby boomers in the GGH in 2014 – just over 2.2 million.
  • The number of GGH millennials are increasing, by an average of 43,000 persons per year in 2011-2014, while baby boomers declined slightly.
  • Millennials are  flocking to the city of Toronto, growing by an average of 26,000 persons per years in 2011-2014;  Peel region was next with growth averaging 5,000 per year.
  • A net influx of immigrants is the largest cause of growth in GGH millennials with the influx centred in the city of Toronto and Peel region.
  • A net outflow of intraprovincial migrants (total of all generations) is taking place from city of Toronto and Peel region to other municipalities, most notably to Simcoe county, and York, Durham and Halton regions.

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Growth Plan Report


November 3, 2015 - This report explores reasons for the significant differences between population growth forecasts for municipalities prepared in 2013 for the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe for 2011-2016 and the actual growth estimated by Statistics Canada for 2011-2014. These differences have been documented in an earlier CUR report Are the Growth Plan Population Forecasts on Target? (dated April 1, 2015).

The most noted differences between estimated actual and forecasted future population growth are: (1) a considerable shortfall in population growth in the Outer Ring (largely municipalities outside the outer boundary of the Greenbelt), particularly in the west (e.g. Waterloo region): (2) higher than forecasted future population growth in the city of Toronto and (3) a shortfall in the 905 portions of the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (GTAH) centred in York and Durham regions.

The authors conclude that these divergences between the forecasted and estimated actual population growth during 2011-2014 can be explained primarily by the robust growth in new apartment construction and employment growth in central Toronto combined with shortages of serviced lots for ground-related housing in key 905 region municipalities both within and outside of the GTA. Employment weakness in Kitchener-Waterloo was a contributing factor in the western sub-forecast area. Unless there is a significant increase in the supply of serviced sites in the areas outside the city of Toronto it is likely that the population, and, ultimately, employment, forecasts for these areas in the Growth Plan will not be met.

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October 20, 2015 - It is generally recognized that the provision of affordable housing to meet the needs of lower income households is an income redistribution program most appropriately funded by the senior levels of government, not municipalities. Municipalities are being force to search for less satisfactory, locally based approaches due to a marked shortfall in funding from the Ontario and federal governments. In this report Dr. Frank Clayton and research assistant Geoff Schwartz explore the need for a new tool –inclusionary zoning (IZ) -  to be added to the municipal toolbox for providing affordable housing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). IZ typically reserves a percentage of affordable housing units in new developments that require re-zonings. In exchange, density trade-offs are frequently offered to developers to offset the cost of providing affordable units.

The report explores the different iterations of inclusionary zoning in effect in other jurisdictions and focuses on the impacts that IZ could have on the housing market in the GGH. It further explores how an inclusionary zoning policy would fit with the other policy tools available to Ontario municipalities, including development charges, Section 37 of the Planning Act and the creation of second suites in single-detached houses. It is found that inclusionary zoning policy is fundamentally determined at a local level and has varying levels of success in terms of producing affordable units and minimizing negative impacts such as increases in housing prices and decreases in new housing production.

The research findings indicate that IZ in Ontario might not be necessary. Inclusionary zoning effectively duplicates the provisions of Section 37 of the Planning Act which allow municipalities to provide additional density in exchange for community benefit contributions, including affordable housing. Moreover, municipalities can enhance housing affordability in the GGH in a significant way by greatly increasing the supply of serviced sites for all types of new housing units and encouraging the creation of second units in the existing stock of single-detached houses. 

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September 24, 2015 - In this report Professor Joseph Chow with research assistance by Ahmed Amer present an on-street parking model for downtowns in urban centers that incorporates the often-neglected parking demand of commercial vehicles. When parking is saturated, passenger cars often cruise until an open space is available. Commercial vehicles, on the other hand, are more likely to double-park near their destinations and occupy a travelling street lane. 

The model is applied to  a case study area that encompasses the Financial District in downtown Toronto to demonstrate the application of the model and how useful it could be in creating significant gains in social surplus (in maximizing the total benefit minus the total cost). The authors  found that compared to a baseline scenario representative of the study area in Toronto in 2015, increasing parking fees from $4/hour to nearly $9/hour and assigning 3.4% of parking spaces to truck deliveries would eliminate cruising and truck double-parking, resulting in a social surplus gain of over $13,500/hr/mi2.  This is one of two scenarios examined in the report.

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April 27, 2015 - This report traces the transformation of 68 hectares (168 acres) of land in the former city of Scarborough from an under-performing industrial area to the family-oriented residential community now known as Warden Woods Community. 

It briefly describes conditions in the larger industrial area of which the Warden Woods lands were a part around the year 2000, and provides insights into the numbers and types of housing built and the characteristics of residents occupying the new homes. The bulk of the report provides a chronology of the planning process that led to the conversion of the Warden Woods lands from industrial or commercial uses to a sizeable lower-density residential community.

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Exterior of Suburban home


March 13, 2015 - The Land Transfer Tax (LTT) imposed by the City of Toronto in early 2008 remains controversial with the real estate industry fervently pleading for its repeal. In contrast, with the tax generating a considerable revenue stream – a record $432 million in 2014 – City Council and its staff advisors are reluctant to tinker with the tax, let alone eliminate it.

This report provides insight into two questions: How should Toronto residents regard the LTT – as a good tax, a bad tax, or simply a tolerable tax? And would the city's tax system be improved by dropping the LTT and replacing foregone revenues with higher property taxes?

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toronto waterfront


December 8, 2014 - In the GTA, municipalities provide sanitary sewer and water services to their residents and businesses. The provision of these services and the maintenance and improvement of the physical infrastructure are financed through a combination of user charges and developer charges levied on new development. The financing of new sewer and water infrastructure is a major component of the total development charges levied on new development. Development charges are in turn a significant portion of the cost of new development.

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