It’s time for leaders to take action on the affordability crisis 

If challenges around housing, groceries, transportation, schooling and health care are left unsolved, the GTHA will never achieve its full potential.

It’s time for leaders to take action on the affordability crisis

October 10, 2023

We’ve been talking about the problems facing the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) for too long — it’s time for our municipalities, communities, and leaders to take action.

We know that affordability is a crisis for millions, and housing is out of reach for millions more. Foreign investment isn’t where it should be. Small businesses are still recovering from the pandemic. Employers can’t find the talent they need to grow, yet, as new Canadians arrive who can help strengthen our workforce, many will be caught in a system that doesn’t recognize their credentials, slowing their economic integration. And they too will need access to scarce housing, affordable groceries, better transportation, and adequate schooling and health care.

Whether you are struggling or thriving today, these issues matter to everyone. If these and other challenges are left unsolved the GTHA will never achieve its full potential. On the contrary, it may experience a socio-economic shock, and see homelessness grow, social services stretched to a breaking point, seniors pushed into poverty, small businesses close and families move away.

The pain will be felt disproportionately by already vulnerable communities who deserve better, and it will spread and impact us all. That’s too sad to contemplate and too dire an outcome to ignore.

While the challenges are serious, our region brings inherent advantages to the work ahead. It is one of the most diverse in the world, a beacon for millions who want to live a better life. That dream of a better tomorrow is one shared by own family when I arrived in Canada from Trinidad as a teenager.

Our region also has a vibrant cultural and arts community, and outstanding universities. We are home to world-leading banks, pension funds and insurance companies, and have seen our technology sector expand and compete successfully with others around the world. Small businesses and scrappy entrepreneurs are pushing forward — often against the odds.

With all these advantages, surely solutions can be developed, funded, and executed. Let’s be motivated by our potential, believe that all problems — no matter how complex — can be overcome, and channel our passion for where we live and work into action to build a better future. The urgency of the moment cannot be understated. If we don’t act now, the challenges will only grow.

In his final letter to the region he loved, CivicAction founder, David Pecaut, wrote “We can be the best in the world at collective leadership. A city that is filled with civic entrepreneurs practicing collective leadership will be able to face any challenge and do all kinds of great things.”

More than 20 years after CivicAction was founded, motivating collective action remains our goal for the upcoming CivicAction summit. The summit’s theme is Changemakers Needed. It is an urgent call to leaders and experts to lend their influence and expertise toward a shared goal — to drive positive change through co-ordinated action from community, political and business leaders.