Toronto Region Board of Trade and WoodGreen urge new partnerships and non-traditional solutions to counter exodus of mid-to-low income workers from region


TORONTO, ON, January 24, 2020 — Employers should be part of the solution to build housing for their workers and sustain economic growth, states a new report released by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and WoodGreen. In Housing a Generation of Workers, the organizations investigate the urgent challenges associated with finding affordable housing in Toronto, especially for key workers in sectors like healthcare, education and hospitality. Pulling lessons from case studies in British Columbia, California, and the United Kingdom, the report also recommends best practices that will accelerate the development of workforce housing in Toronto.

“Toronto’s continued economic growth depends on finding an answer to the increasingly urgent problem of housing workers,” states Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. “Major companies will not continue to invest in our region if we lose the cooks, tradespeople and childcare workers that allow our city to function. The business community needs to be part of the solution.”

The report cites Silicon Valley as a cautionary tale. While creating a record number of well-paying jobs, reaching the highest average wages worldwide in 2019, the area has also seen homelessness rise by 17% and the loss of up to one-fifth of all teachers in a school district each year.

Toronto’s numbers paint a similarly stark picture. From 2016 to 2019, over 325,000 new jobs were created in Toronto but only 102,000 new homes were built or approved. Within the past five years, only 2% of new housing has been deemed affordable. As a result, between 2017 and 2018, 50,000 people moved out of the Toronto area for other regions of Ontario. The loss of this talent can lead to significant economic and social costs for the city of Toronto.

“The statistics, trends and residents all tell the same story: housing in Toronto is increasingly unaffordable, unsuitable and unavailable,” states Anne Babcock, President and CEO of WoodGreen. “The good news is there is still time to act, and Toronto can benefit from the experience and successes of alternative approaches, involving non-traditional actors. Building dedicated housing for workers – or workforce housing – is one approach that broadens the pool of organizations taking responsibility for ensuring employees have a place to live.”

Workforce housing refers to households that fall within a specific income range and is meant to capture the needs of households who earn above thresholds for traditional social housing programs, yet still struggle to find suitable accommodation within their budget. Because existing social and affordable housing programs are targeted at households earning less than $40,000, the report focuses on an income range of $40,000 to $65,000.

The report notes that there is increasing competition for social and low-cost rental housing by middle-income workers who have run out of options. Building more workforce housing is one way to help relieve pressure on social housing by freeing up in-demand affordable units, complementing other efforts to reduce homelessness.

Looking at case studies from Whistler (B.C), University of British Columbia (B.C), San Mateo County Community College District (California), Jefferson Union High School District Board of Trustees (California), and Elderberry Walk (U.K), the report draws on best practices that can inform the development of workforce housing in Toronto. These lessons include:

  • Engage non-traditional partners, such as school boards, universities and employers, who have land assets that can be developed to provide workforce housing;
  • Practice strong community engagement to help ease concerns and address questions about the development of workforce housing;
  • Start with the needs of the beneficiaries of a project, to improve outcomes; and,
  • Encourage government leaders to support long-term strategies that will deliver the housing Toronto needs.

Government alone cannot solve Toronto’s housing challenges. The report calls on all partners with a vested interest in solving Toronto’s housing problem to be at the table, particularly those who have not traditionally been engaged on housing issues, including employers. This will ensure that the city’s cultural diversity and economic prosperity continues to grow.

This report is the first in a three-part series, sponsored by TD. Forthcoming reports will focus on the specific challenges and opportunities for workforce housing in Toronto and examine the economic cost of inaction.

To read the full report, click here:



About WoodGreen

A United Way Anchor Agency, WoodGreen combines significant scale and a proven track record with an entrepreneurial mindset, continuously seeking and developing innovative solutions to critical social needs. With a rich history spanning more than 80 years, WoodGreen is one of the largest social service agencies in Toronto, serving 37,000 people each year from 36 locations. Together we help people find safe, affordable housing, seniors live independently, internationally-trained professionals enter the job market, parents access childcare, children and youth access after-school programs, newcomers settle in to Canadian life, homeless and marginalized people get off the streets, youth find meaningful employment and training and provide a wide range of mental health supports.


About the Toronto Region Board of Trade
The Toronto Region Board of Trade is one of the largest and most influential chambers of commerce in North America and is a catalyst for the region’s economic growth agenda. Backed by more than 13,500 members, we pursue policy change to drive the growth and competitiveness of the Toronto region, and facilitate market opportunities with programs, partnerships and connections to help our members succeed – domestically and internationally. We want Toronto to be recognized as one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world, and believe this reputation starts with our businesses. Learn more at and follow us at @TorontoRBOT.


For more information:


Matthew Kofsky
Toronto Region Board of Trade
Jessica Freeman
416-645-6000 x 4015