Yes In My Backyard*
Join our community of urbanists, activists, and others working toward a growing, dynamic, and affordable Toronto.

Housing in Toronto is expensive because there's not enough of it. This shortage has lead to countless young people and middle class families being priced out of the city.

Housing Matters is a coalition of Torontonians who advocate for more homes for more people. To learn more, please visit our FAQ.

Upcoming events
Event details coming soon.
Past Events
Can housing be affordable again?
Feat. Diana Petramala of Ryerson's Centre for Urban Research
Our spring meet up was a panel discussion with Diana Petramala of Ryerson's Centre for Urban Research as we discussed a recent CMHC research report that detailed how supply constraints have contributed to the rise in home prices between 2010 and 2016.
Midtown in focus
Our first meet up of the new year was a panel discussion on the proposed Yonge-Eglinton secondary plan; also known as Midtown in Focus. We discussed how this plan signals continued reluctance by the city to meaningfully address Toronto's housing availability and affordability crisis.
The great rent control debate
Feat. Taylor Scollon, former strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada, Phillip Mendonca-Vieira, Founder of Better10, Jim Murphy, President and CEO of Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, and Derek Lobo, CEO of SVN Rock Advisors Inc.
Our November meet up was a head to head debate featuring Taylor Scollon and Phillip Mendonca-Vieira debating the pros of rent control, and Jim Murphy and Derek Lobo debating the cons.
Video
Debate
Slow & expensive
Feat. Ben Myers, SVP of Market Research and Analytics at Fortress Real Developments, and Jane Pepino, Partner at Aird & Berlis LLP.
Our August meet up featured of Market Research and Analytics at Fortress Real Developments, and Jane Pepino, Partner at Aird & Berlis LLP. We discussed how Toronto's slow and expensive building approval process discourages developers and contributes to rising housing prices.
Slides
Ben Myers
Jane Pepino
Exclusionary Zoning
Feat. Cheryll Case, BURPI, and Sean Galbraith, MCIP, RPP
Our July meet up featured urban planners Cheryll Case, BURPI, and Sean Galbraith, MCIP, RPP. We discussed how zoning policies have historically been used to exclude housing for lower income families and how this practice continues today.
Yes in my backyard
Feat. John Michael McGrath - TVO.org Digital Media Producer, Marcus Gee - Columnist for The Globe & Mail
Our June meet up featured Toronto Columnist for The Globe & Mail Marcus Gee and TVO.org Digital Media Producer John Michael McGrath. We discussed how young, city loving people throughout North America, and now in Toronto, are speaking out for denser and ultimately more affordable housing.
“Socialism for the rich”
Feat. James McKellar, Real Estate and Infrastructure Professor at York University
Our May meet up featured Professor James Mckellar of Real Estate and Infrastructure at York University and Director of the Brookfield Centre for Real Estate and Infrastructure. We discussed how Toronto's outdated low density bylaws insulate the wealthy and exclude the rest.
see more past events
Upcoming Public Meetings
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Hosting a public meeting?

These meetings are hosted by the City’s Planning Department to solicit feedback on proposed housing developments.

NIMBYs typically dominate public meetings, providing the City with a skewed perspective on the desirability of new housing. We need YIMBYs to show up as well to rebalance the conversation and remind the area residents, City Planners, and local Councillors that housing matters.

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City Link

Other Events

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Browse our calendar for information on upcoming public meetings. These meetings are hosted by the City’s Planning Department to solicit feedback on proposed housing developments.

NIMBYs typically dominate public meetings, providing the City with a skewed perspective on the desirability of new housing. We need YIMBYs to show up as well to rebalance the conversation and remind the area residents, City Planners, and local Councillors that housing matters.

FAQ
Who are you?

We’re a group advocating for greater housing availability and affordability in Toronto. Started in 2017 as a purely volunteer-based organization, Housing Matters seeks to energize and mobilize Torontonians to fight back against the anti-development, anti-growth, anti-progress, and overall anti-change forces of nimbyism.

We take groups to planning meetings, organize meetups and debates, and are now working on original research and social media outreach.

What do you want?

We want more housing being built in Toronto. We believe that the current crisis in housing affordability and availability stems from the fact that not enough new homes are being built to meet demand.

We think Toronto is a great city, with world-class opportunities in technology, health care, finance, law, construction, gastronomy, education, sports, culture, and entertainment. and should be accessible to more people.

More people mean more neighbours, more human capital, more opportunities for making personal connections, and more opportunities for everyone to contribute and benefit from the opportunities provided by our great city.

However, restrictions on providing new housing is restricting our city’s ability to grow. That means we can serve fewer people, employ fewer people, and provide livable places for fewer people.

What does YIMBY mean?

YIMBY is an acronym for “Yes In My BackYard.” It is best understood as a response to NIMBY, an acronym for “Not In My BackYard.”

NIMBY has grown to be an epithet to describe people who resist any and all changes in their community. To be a nimby is to be pessimistic when it comes to the benefits of new neighbours, new businesses, and new community amenities.

The YIMBY movement, in contrast, welcomes new development. Especially with respect to housing. To be a yimby is to be optimistic about all newcomers, new businesses, and other signs of economic growth.

Why the focus on supply?

When it comes to supply and demand of housing, we believe a lot of the answers can be found in basic economics. Specifically, there are only two reasons why prices increase—either supply is destroyed while demand is staying the same or increasing; or demand is increasing while supply stays the same or increasing more slowly.

While in both cases it’s possible to remedy the problem of high prices by eliminating demand, we think that allowing people to move to and visit Toronto is a good thing that will bring us more jobs, innovation, culture, and global prominence.

For that reason, we believe the problem with housing affordability has a simple solution: build more housing. We think that there is genuine demand for more housing from consumers and investors, and that developers want to build this housing to meet the demand.

So that raises a new question: why isn’t housing supply increasing to meet the demand?

The answer is that various supply constraints—land use rules in particular—are largely responsible for the rapid housing price increases we've been experiencing in Toronto. We're simply not building enough new housing to accommodate our population growth and new household formation.

We don't think that increasing the supply of housing will solve all of our problems. But it is a vital (and often overlooked) first step.

Isn’t the city filling up with condos?

Only 15% of the city is currently zoned for mid-rise and high-rise condos and apartments: most of that concentrated in the downtown core, within very narrow bands along major thoroughfares like Yonge Street, and areas near transit stations and large freeway exits.

As it happens, that’s where most people work and commute to. So it is very easy to see the growth in these areas.

But there is an unseen phenomena that is happening despite the tremendous growth in population in the GTA: in 52% of Toronto’s landmass, the population is actually decreasing.

Why?

Because as it happens, Toronto’s Official Plan calls for any new development in residential areas known as Neighbourhoods to “reflect and reinforce the existing physical character” of the existing (mostly low-density, detached and semi-detached) housing. This area, which represents over 70% of Toronto’s land mass, is known as the Yellowbelt.

Currently, the Yellowbelt is becoming more and more prohibitive to move to for downsizers, upgraders, and newcomers. So this leaves the downtown, avenues, and major transit centres (if not the rest of the GTA) as where people are forced to move to.

In short, the reason we’re noticing so many mid-rise and high-rise condos go up is because of two reasons: first, most of them are being built where most people either work, or along their commutes; and second, it is legally difficult or impossible to build so-called missing middle housing types in a large swath of the city.

Isn’t it important that we preserve the character of our stable neighbourhoods?

A neighbourhood is defined by two characteristics: the personal character of its residents, and the architectural character of its built form. Neither of these characteristics are unchanging over time.

The personal characters change as marriages happen, babies are born, residents die, fads and fashions sweep the area, or residents seek other neighbourhoods for different employment, cultural, or geographic opportunities. The architectural characters change as well, as normal wear and tear, catastrophic natural events, accidents, and technological improvements require upgrades and other changes.

So it is natural that the personal and physical characters of neighbourhoods should change over time. The notion of “stable” neighbourhoods is a myth.

Most new developments are expensive luxury units. If housing is unaffordable, shouldn’t we build more affordable housing?

This is an appealing argument, but it misses some nuance. Even if all the new housing construction are luxury condos, that still creates enough competition to put downward pressure on prices.

There are, broadly speaking, three groups who purchase or rent newly built housing: downsizers (those looking to move from a bigger home to a smaller home—like older people whose children don't live with them anymore), upgraders (those looking to move from a smaller home to a bigger home—like working age people who got a new promotion), and newcomers (those looking to buy or rent for the first time—like immigrants, or children moving out on their own, etc.).

When new housing is not built, fewer downsizers downsize, fewer upgraders upgrade, and fewer newcomers show up. Those who do work to bid up our existing stock. That is definition gentrification.

The more available units of housing there are, regardless of quality, the more choices everyone will have when finding a home.

Do we have room for more housing?
Yes, there is plenty of room to grow. As mentioned above, 52% of the city is currently declining in population—even though the city as a whole is growing. So the solution is obviously to legalize more housing in these overpriced, declining areas.
What about foreign (and domestic) speculators?

It’s true that an increase in foreign (and domestic) speculators will increase home prices—at least in the short term.

But what speculators are betting on is that future supply will be restricted. The best way to countering this bet is by building more housing.

Nimbys who bought their homes as “investments” are speculators, too. The difference is that they were able to speculate in a time of relative abundance and ease of buying a home. Now, they are trying to use the power of government (through legal restrictions on building—like zoning) to limit their competition and protect their profits.

Making a profit is not immoral. It is what makes the economy work. But using the government to protect your profit from fair competition—hurting current and future residents in the meanwhile—is what we decry as nimbyism.

Moreover, very few people who are sophisticated enough to be able to afford a home in Toronto are willing to just let it sit empty. It is more profitable to rent it out, in order to increase their properties’ cashflow.

By renting out their homes, speculators are contributing to the supply of rental housing. By increasing the supply of rental housing, then by the same logic we derived above, speculators actually drive the price of renting in the city down.

Thus, while speculation makes buying a home more expensive, it makes renting a home more affordable.

If more homes means cheaper homes, why should homeowners want to support your organization?

If homeowners have children and grandchildren who they would like to see live and work close by, they should support our organization. If homeowners want to see Toronto attracting the best employers and talent from around the world, they should support our organization.

If homeowners want to continue to enjoy the benefits that come with a rich, growing cosmopolitan community, then they should support our community.

We believe that Toronto can be a world-class city without sky-high rents. We believe that it’s possible to have housing quality go up while remaining affordable. We believe that Toronto can be a place for everyone to live—not just the lucky few who bought into the market before a house cost more than 9 times the median income; or the ultra-rich and those who won the community housing lottery.

Are you a shill group for developers?

No. We are a grassroots organization that cares deeply about housing availability and affordability, and we understand that increasing the supply of housing is a necessary, if not sufficient, response to our housing crisis. That said, we also understand that the there is an industry that would just love to deliver that supply: the development industry.

To the extent that developers buy into our mission, we do accept their donations, capped as a matter of policy to no more than ⅓ of our annual budget. This is to ensure our long term integrity and independence. The remaining ⅔ of our funding is provided by (mostly tech) companies and individuals that are not associated with the real estate industry.

How do I get involved?
To get involved, you can start by signing up for our newsletter and coming out to our monthly events. Those will keep up to speed on all our activities and new developments. You can also reach out directly via our Twitter account if you want to chat. Finally, you can support us on Patreon.
Join our slack team: @Torontohousingmatters
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