Addressing Housing in Ontario: Role of Universities in Finding Solutions

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Addressing Housing in Ontario: Role of Universities in Finding Solutions

The Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) and the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) partnered for a second year to host a session at the AMO 2023 Conference and discussed how municipalities and universities can utilize the research and innovation coming out of Ontario’s universities, outlining ways to work collaboratively as partners to address local housing needs.

By creating communal living spaces, building fast and cost-effective emergency housing, boosting mixed-use development and creating 3-D printed housing projects, Ontario’s universities are partnering with local municipalities and industry to implement housing solutions that will ultimately lead to improved affordability, accessibility and sustainability for communities and the province.

In his opening remarks to the session, COU’s President and CEO Steve Orsini reinforced universities’ commitment as strong municipal partners. “Ontario universities have strong relationships with municipalities and community partners to expand opportunities to streamline and support the development of housing,” he said.

When addressing the role universities play in student housing, he shared the following key facts:

  • Over the last five years, universities increased residential spaces by more than 6,400 spaces – a 10% increase — bringing the total number to more than 59,600 spaces.
  • On top of that, universities are projecting to add more than 9,000 new spaces, or 15%, over the next five years.
  • In addition, universities are working with community partners and providing support services to students to help find accommodations.
  • As a result of these efforts, universities were able to meet more than 90% of student requests for a residence space last year.

The panel that followed Orsini’s opening remarks included university researchers, David Amborski from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), Dr. James Dunn from McMaster University and Professor Laura Allan from Wilfrid Laurier University, with Lynn Logan, VP of Finance & Operations from Western University moderating the discussion.

Amborski from TMU discussed housing through a supply and demand lens with suggestions that included estimating need for the future by housing type, based on projected population growth. He also talked about how the response to current housing challenges requires a multi-faceted, coordinated response from all levels of government, including municipal, provincial and federal.

McMaster’s Dr. Dunn then took the stage to discuss his partnership with the City of Hamilton to find affordable housing solutions. Guided by four pillars – construction, acquisition, preservation/retention and supports – his work highlighted building moderately affordable units, new financing strategies, increasing supports for people with high acuity needs and creating policies to prevent market rental units as just some of the possible solutions.

With rural and remote communities facing a unique set of housing challenges that include climate change and construction costs, Wilfrid Laurier’s Professor Allan pointed to the power of students to provide tangible, innovative solutions. Using a student-led enterprise as a case study, Allan demonstrated how a group of students is addressing the housing crisis in remote communities by partnering with Indigenous leaders, architects, engineers, municipal officials and residents to build 20 energy-efficient tiny homes. The project also includes training residents to help assemble and maintain the homes, enhancing self-sufficiency.

As committed partners with municipalities across the province, Ontario’s universities look forward to continuing to partner with AMO to deliver the annual AMO-COU Lecture and forging new connections among universities and municipal and provincial leaders that help create a better future for communities and the people of Ontario.

For more examples of the research, programs and work underway at Ontario’s universities that are helping towns and cities continue to find solutions that are responsive to their specific housing needs, read: Partnering with Municipalities in Finding Housing Solutions.

Tags: AMOhousing