Toronto is the crown jewel of Canada’s growing tech sector and a centerpiece of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ambitions to make the country a leader in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. The city boasts a high-quality research university and a highly educated talent pool. Unfortunately, it’s also starting to experience the same problem faced by other major cities in North America: a shortage of housing, leading to high living costs for young professionals.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade has warned that rising housing costs and a short supply of decent apartments in the greater Toronto area risks harming the city’s ability to attract and retain talent, according to the Star’s real estate reporter Tess Kalinowski:
A survey by the business group last year shows 42 per cent of young professionals would consider leaving the region because of the high cost of housing. That has prompted the board to publish a Housing Policy Playbook in advance of the June provincial election with five recommendations for how the next government should tackle the housing crunch. The proposals range from building condos over transit stations to expediting construction permits. …
An Environics email survey for the board last summer found 83 per cent of 803 young professionals, aged 18 to 39, were struggling to save for retirement due to high housing prices. Sixty-five per cent said it was impacting their ability to pay down debt.
Toronto’s housing woes are familiar to a number of major urban areas in the US where millennial professionals have tended to congregate early in their careers. The high cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area has contributed to skills gaps among Silicon Valley employers as tech talent looks for work in more affordable areas where rents are lower and homeownership is achievable. Housing costs have also been seen as a factor discouraging young professionals from moving to (or encouraging them to leave) Los Angeles and Washington, DC, not to mention the famously expensive New York City.
Of course, one city’s loss is another city’s gain, and areas with lower costs of living and shortages of workers have begun pitching themselves as alternatives to these costly locations. Wisconsin, with a 3 percent unemployment rate and a growing number of unfilled jobs, has launched an advertising campaign to entice millennial talent to move to its cities and suburbs, hoping to sell them on lower living costs than Chicago, easier commutes, and better quality of life.