The Sunday Magazine

What's causing Canada's housing crisis?

In Toronto and Vancouver, urban sprawl, income inequality, globalization and poor planning have combined to create a crisis of affordability and availability. Michael's guests are Jon van Nostrand, Founding Principal of SvN Architects and Planners, Pamela Blais, a city planner and Principal of Metropole Consultants and Josh Gordon, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University.
(Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

Eavesdrop on a conversation in Toronto and Vancouver and you're likely to overhear someone fretting about housing: their children will never  be able to find an affordable place to live; friends are diving deep into debt to buy a tiny condo in a glass tower; others are moving out of the city altogether and commuting to their jobs.

Urban lodging is in short supply to rent or buy. And it's no wonder. More than 115,000 people move into each of Canada's two largest cities every year — the equivalent of the population of a small town. 

The average cost of a house in Vancouver has edged over the million dollar mark, while Toronto is not far behind at around $900,000. 

Downtown Vancouver, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
To rent a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver or Toronto you can expect to shell out at least $1,700 a month. 

And as the need increases, we are confronted by unprecedented urban sprawl, which is poorly planned and very costly to taxpayers in dozens of obvious and hidden ways. 

Unbridled growth leads to pressure on city's infrastructure — everything from transportation to social services, schools and parks. 

In this segment, we discuss how we got into this mess and what can be done about it. Our guests are:

  • John van Nostrand (
    Jon van Nostrand, the Founding Principal of SvN Architects and Planners. Over the last forty years he has been the driving force behind the firm's domestic and international architecture, planning and urban design practice. He also has extensive experience leading large, multi-disciplinary consulting teams on complex regional planning and rural and urban development projects across Canada and around the World.
  • Pamela Blais (Photo courtesy of Pamela Blais)
    Pamela Blais, a city planner and Principal of Metropole Consultants. She is the author of Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy and Urban Sprawl, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Donner Book Prize. Ms. Blais has a Master's in Planning from the University of Toronto and a PhD in urban economic geography from the London School of Economics.
  • Josh Gordon (Simon Fraser University)
    Josh Gordon, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. His main research interests are labor market policy and the Canadian housing market. Professor Gordon has published two reports examining the housing affordability challenges in Toronto and Vancouver, and has published several op-eds on the topic.
  • Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview. 


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