Housing-price crunch might chase talented young workers out of Toronto, roundtable hears

An "eye-opening" reality hit a Toronto employer Monday at a Toronto housing roundtable with Mayor John Tory at the helm, as younger employees said they may need to leave the Greater Toronto Area altogether because of soaring house prices.

Concerns from Toronto housing roundtable indicate some would-be homebuyers may need to move outside GTA

Sarah Robinson has ditched the idea of buying in Toronto and can barely stomach the idea of the city's rental market, which means she may need to search outside the GTA for that perfect home. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Several young employees at a downtown Toronto company told a roundtable on housing Monday they may need to leave the Greater Toronto Area altogether because of soaring house prices.

Sarah Robinson was one of the workers who spoke up at Wattpad, where the roundtable was held.

At 26, Robinson is secure in her job as a social media and marketing officer at the company, a growing online storytelling platform that was founded in 2006.

She said she doesn't want to be stuck renting a pricey condo forever, but she's overwhelmed by the expensive rental listings available and she's ditched the idea of buying in the city altogether.

"It's to the point where [buying a house in Toronto is] not even a consideration to be honest," Robinson said. "People talk about, 'Oh, what would you do if you won the lottery?' For people who live in Toronto it's like, 'I would live in Toronto in a house,' because it's so not possible."

Robinson shares her 400-square-foot condo in the St Lawrence Market neighbourhood with her boyfriend, but she's looked at places throughout the GTA and said she may need to widen her search outside the GTA, especially once she is ready to start a family.

"It's not insurmountable, but it`s definitely a real fear for bosses," she said, about possibly having to relocate outside driving distance to her downtown firm's office. "And the bosses lose out on young talent and we have a lot to offer."

That was a concern echoed by a couple of young people who spoke at the housing roundtable, which was chaired by Mayor John Tory. It was part of a three-city initiative, with roundtables held Monday in Vancouver and Edmonton as well..

Wattpad co-founder and CEO Allen Lau said it was "a real-eye opener" and he can't help but fear the possibility of an exodus of young talent that his business thrives on.

"It's becoming increasingly concerning," Lau said. "If people have to move out of the city they might not be able to work at my company anymore, or they may have to spend hours and hours in commutes because they just can`t afford to live in the city."

Mayor John Tory hosted a housing roundtable where five panellists outlined their struggles with the Toronto housing market. (Chris Glover/CBC )

The roundtable was an airing-of-grievances of sorts, with five panelists before a crowd of mostly 20-somethings outlining their struggles with the Toronto real-estate market, but the  did discuss some possible solutions.

"I want them stay here and I want them 20 years from now to still be here because they can raise their family here and create their careers here and that's why we have to deal with transit and why we have to deal with housing," Tory said.

Tory applauded a recent city effort to put up $106.3 million worth of land over five years. The city would speed up timelines for approval and reduce fees for private developers to build projects on that land if they commit to building "affordable rental spaces."

Through the initiative, 15 sites have been identified and three developments have already started the process, but they will only produce a few hundred units, not the thousands the city needs, the mayor said.

"We have to keep at it and we have to do more and we've got to have land from the other levels of governments to make sure that we can have even more of these units," said Tory.