GTA Housing Action Lab

A house, a mid-rise apartment building, and a high-rise apartment building in Toronto.We build housing very well in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The market, responding to economic trends and regulatory conditions, has managed to build a huge amount of new housing to accommodate the fastest growing region in North America. And yet we face some critical interrelated challenges that are affecting resident’s well-being and the future sustainability and affordability of housing in the region. These challenges include:

  • Growing affordability issues and lack of housing options for GTA residents, in particular at the lower end of the income spectrum, including families with children
  • Broader regional economic vulnerability as a result of elevated household debt levels and the economic costs of inefficient growth patterns
  • Threats to the region’s environmental sustainability from auto-based travel patterns and pressures on energy and water systems

The impacts of these can be seen in:

  • Cost of housing rising disproportionately to incomes
  • Growing social housing waiting lists and repair costs
  • Few new lower income rental and affordable ownership options
  • A lack of diversity in the form and tenure of housing resulting in a lack of choice for residents
  • Challenges to the process of intensification and a disconnect between development patterns and regional growth and transportation planning

The GTA Housing Action Lab is a collaborative working group that has come together to build:

An aerial view of a suburban residential neighbourhood.

  • Programs and policies that support the affordability of housing to ensure residents of all incomes have the best chance to live in a suitable home and have a choice in their housing
  • A more sustainable housing system in the region by increasing public support for intensification, awareness of the benefits of complete communities, and policies that support creative infill in our urban centres and a connected region
  • A policy and regulatory framework that encourages diversity in form and tenure, intensification and affordability, and creates incentives aligned with the needs of the residents of the region while creating an economically viable housing sector

Housing Research

The GTA Housing Action Lab has identified eight focus areas. Within each, the lab and its partners have co-created a series of solution-based research that explores each topic.

  • Housing Benefit
  • Leveraging Assets Locked in Social Housing
  • New Partnerships for Affordable Housing
  • Affordable Home Ownership
  • Purpose Built Rental
  • Tower Renewal
  • Creative Infill Housing
  • Data

Below you will find a compendium of our completed research to date. Some pieces are still underway and our work is ever evolving. Please visit again to see continuous updates.

Housing Benefit

Designing a Housing Allowance Program by the Caledon Institute

This research paper describes and analyses options for designing a housing allowance in Ontario, as well as other provinces. It pays particular attention to the harmonization of a housing allowance program with social assistance.

Leveraging Assets in Social Housing

This research report examines existing social housing assets in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area with a specific focus on the potential for leveraging the value of those assets towards the goal of creating new affordable housing.

Affordable Home Ownership

Affordable home ownership is a key pillar in a sustainable affordable housing strategy. Affordable home ownership models use a combination of shared equity and creative mortgage structures to enable lower income individuals and families who might not otherwise qualify for a conventional mortgage to access ownership.

Download the summary(PDF, 98kb)

Full report coming soon

Housing Data Bank

The Toronto Regional Housing Data Bank provides a snapshot to help identify needs and opportunities and inform collective action and advocacy to the federal and provincial governments. This is an updated version of the original created in partnership with the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance in 2011.

Purpose-Built Rental Housing

Promoting Rental Housing in the Greater Toronto Area by Ryerson University School of Urban and Regional Planning

The Creating New Affordable Rental Housing project aims to launch new public private partnerships and further engage the private sector in the creation of affordable rental housing across the Greater Toronto Area.

Encouraging Construction and Retention of Purpose-Built Rental Housing in Canada: Analysis of Federal Tax Policy Options by Greg Lampert Economic Consultant in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders Association

This research was conducted to contribute to and expand the public policy discussion of one of Canada’s most pressing issues: how best to increase access to market–rate rental housing by households with adequate incomes and relatively bright long-term employment prospects. It explores a limited number of potential federal tax policy changes to stimulate investment in new purpose built rental housing.

Intensifying our Communities – Laneway and Midrise Housing

The Greater Toronto Area is growing rapidly, and that growth needs to be accommodated while also protecting the region’s greenbelt, farmland and drinking water — not to mention providing homes with reasonable commuting times. To do that, the region must build up within existing neighbourhoods, instead of building out on the suburban fringes. In 2015 the GTA Housing Action Lab commissioned Pembina and the Ontario Home Builders association to create better understanding and recommendations for light intensification. They produced two research papers:

Community Benefits and Tower Renewal

Community benefits are an emerging mechanism to grow local economies, extend employment opportunities to those who face difficulties entering or staying in the workforce, and help enable social and neighbourhood regeneration. This paper explores how community benefits can play a role in the retrofitting of apartment tower communities.

GTHA Government-Owned Public Lands Inventory by Ryerson University's Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR)

The objective of this research is to develop an inventory of government-owned land in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Land ownership is an important precondition for governments to undertake a range of land use policies to generate public facilities that are needed to support growth and development.

Toward a Brighter Future: Opportunities to Reduce Affordable Need and Homelessness in the GTHA

This report outlines the housing and homelessness funding challenges faced by municipalities within the GTHA. It also highlights the positive impact of the 2016 federal and provincial budget allocations for housing and homelessness prevention.

The report, authored by Steve Pomeroy, finds that we are well positioned to deliver new housing and homelessness initiatives, expand innovative program and policy solutions, and expand housing collaboration with the federal and provincial governments.

For more information please contact Michelle German at

Convened by:

Evergreen CityWorks


Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and HousingOntario Trillium Foundation


BILDCity of TorontoCanadian Mental Health AssociationCanadian Urban InstituteCivicActionCentre for Urban Growth and RenewalCo-operative Housing Federation of CanadaDaily Bread Food BankDKGi IncERA ArchitectsGreater Toronto Apartment AssociationHabitat for HumanityHousing Services CorporationMowat CentreThe Natural StepThe Neptis FoundationOntario Home Builders AssociationOntario Non-Profit Housing AssocationOptions for HomesPembina instituteRegion of PeelRyerson City Building InstituteSean Hertel - Urban Planning Consultantsustainable.toSvNTas Design BuildToronto Atmospheric FundToronto Region Conservation AuthorityTridelTrillium HousingUnited Way | Toronto & York RegionUrban Land InstituteYork Region