Windsor-Essex needs 30,000 new homes to meet housing demand, researchers say

A new report has found that Windsor-Essex has an existing housing shortfall of 9,900 homes and will need 30,400 in a decade. (Octavio Jones/Reuters - image credit)
A new report has found that Windsor-Essex has an existing housing shortfall of 9,900 homes and will need 30,400 in a decade. (Octavio Jones/Reuters - image credit)

Demand for housing in the Windsor area is already outstripping supply, and the region will need 30,400 new homes by 2031, according to new research.

Getting there would require creating new housing more quickly, according to Mike Moffatt, an economist and senior director of the Ottawa-based think-tank, the Smart Prosperity Institute, which published the report.

Moffatt says it about 3,000 homes per year need to be added to the region, more than double the level of construction we've seen over the past few years.

Windsor-Essex, he said, is "absolutely booming," with post-secondary enrolment up and many students staying put after graduation.

"There's a lot of 20 somethings in the Windsor-Essex area, and those are your first-time home buyers and home renters," he said. "So we're going to need to make sure that there's enough places if we want to keep them in the Windsor-Essex area."

The current housing shortfall is 9,900 homes, the researchers found.

Overall, Ontario will need about 1.5-million homes in the next 10 years in order to meet the demand, according to the institute's findings. The areas with the biggest need are in the Greater Toronto Area.

The researchers projected that Chatham-Kent will need a net increase of 2,400 homes, and Sarnia-Lambton will require 2,700.

The team wanted to investigate whether the figure of 1.5 million homes — the target adopted by the provincial government in its goal to build more housing — was an estimate that lined up with reality.

"We took a look at existing housing shortages, anticipated population growth and so on, and found that this number is legit," he said.

Moffatt said he was hoping that 1.5-million homes would be an overestimate, given how big of a challenge it will be to create that amount of housing in a decade.

So what happens if we fall short? Moffatt anticipates economic and social consequences.

High prices and high rents would mean that Windsor's high rate of young people living with their parents — one of the highest in Canada — would continue, he said.

It would also have consequences for people attracted to the region because of jobs created by upcoming investments such as the Stellantis-LG Energy Solution electric vehicle battery plant, he said.

Chris Ensing/CBC
Chris Ensing/CBC

Sarah Cipkar, a housing researcher with Family Services Windsor-Essex, thinks the solution to the housing shortfall involves getting creative.

She is working on a federally-funded project that uses geo-spatial data to determine how many additional dwelling units, or ADUs, could be built on existing properties in 100 municipalities across Canada.

"Basically, we're taking a peek to see how much existing land do we actually have? What's our potential here?" she said.

In Windsor, the project has found there are 29,000 lots that could accommodate detached ADUs.

"If you were able to convince maybe a third of homeowners to build an additional unit, whether it's a detached one or if it's even a basement suite, that would alleviate a lot of pressure, particularly on the rental market," she said.

Cipkar said ADUs can meet the needs of a variety of homeowners, including for multi-generational families or adult children who cannot afford to buy their own home.

In addition to ADUs, there's also opportunity to add supply by tapping into empty lots within the city.

During an interview with CBC News, Cipkar walked to a project in the core where a new home with multiple units was under construction on a lot where a house had previously burned down.

She said developers can face barriers trying to get zoning variances for a unit.

"The regulatory process takes quite a while, especially when you have to jump through hoops," Cipkar said.