Toronto’s population increased by 77,000 people last year, nearly as much as the four fastest-growing cities in the United States combined. Year after year, Toronto proves an unparalleled destination for newcomers from elsewhere in Canada and from around the world.
The economic pie is expanding, too. Between 2011 and 2016, the city’s GDP grew by 3.2% annually, almost twice the national pace (1.8%). The unemployment rate has hit a low not seen since 1990, declining from 10.4% in September 2014 to 6.1% by June 2019. Toronto is on a roll.
But how broad is participation in Toronto’s growth story? When we probe the numbers more closely, we see a profound pattern of maldistribution. Despite our self-image, Toronto does not work for all. In fact, for a growing majority, life in the city poses a serious struggle, and the trend lines suggest things will get worse before they get better. It will take concerted effort by Torontonians of goodwill to ensure our successes are widely shared — that the gains of this remarkable growth city are not overwhelmed by growing pains and exclusions.
INCOME AND WEALTH
- Poverty rates overall have started to decline in the last several years, but they remain high relative to other cities.
- Since 1980, newcomers, racialized populations, and young people have had no inflation adjusted increases in income, while older, Canadian-born, White residents have had as much as 60% in income growth.
- Toronto has the most income inequality in the country, leading to bigger wealth disparities: net worth increased by $2,100 for the bottom 20% between 1999 and 2016 versus more than $600,000 for the top 20%.
- Toronto is the most expensive major city in the country in which to live, and critical costs that are disproportionately born by those in low income, including newcomers, youth, and racialized populations, are growing much faster than overall inflation, such as rent, transit, child care, and tuition.
- Even as population growth in the city has risen to unprecedented highs, the number of new rental units has not been keeping pace.
- Housing prices are skyrocketing: housing costs are growing four times faster than income, and rent costs are growing two times faster than income over the last decade.
- Over the last 12 years, Toronto’s wait list for social housing has increased by 68%, with no new units built in decades, a shelter system at near 100% capacity, and huge wait lists for transitional housing.
- Official homelessness counts show a 69% increase in sheltered homeless people in Toronto in just five years.
- In the last five years, unemployment has improved more than at any point in Toronto’s history.
- Over the last decade, temporary jobs grew five times faster than permanent jobs, self-employment grew three times faster than permanent jobs, and part-time work grew two times faster than full-time jobs.
- Immigrants, racialized populations, and newcomers disproportionately work in these more precarious jobs, contributing to a lack of income growth for these populations over the last 30 years.
- Toronto has the highest child-care costs in the country, presenting huge barriers for parents to go back to work and contributing to high child poverty, particularly among newcomers.
ART, CULTURE AND RECREATION
- In 2017, Toronto had 30,000+ city-funded cultural events and attracted more than 17 million visitors.
- In 2018, the City of Toronto invested $25 per capita in arts and culture, a 79% increase since 2003 but still 56% lower than per-capita spending in Montreal, one of the few other major cities for which we have directly comparable recent data.
- Since 2003, but Montréal still has 56% higher per-capita spending than Toronto, one of the few other major cities for which we have directly comparable recent data.
- Workers in the arts, culture, and recreation sector have high rates of poverty, making less money in Toronto than other major cities.
- Toronto has considerable but unevenly distributed green space in the city, including North America’s biggest urban park, while also being a leader in green roofs.
- Water quality has also improved in the city, with far more swimmable days at city beaches and reduced lead in our drinking water.
- Heatwaves are increasing and only going to get more intense. The number of very hot days per year greater than 30 C is projected to more than double in the near future to 31 from 12.
- Climate change impacts are already here. Property and casualty insurance payouts related to weather in the last decade have averaged four times than the average of the previous three decades, with more than half of that increase coming from water damage due to flooding.
- Toronto has the highest average commute times of any major city in thecountry and the “worst commutes” of any major city in North America, based on high congestion and long travel times.
- Toronto has extremely high transit usage, even as transit costs have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation, hitting those who are lower income and most reliant on public transit.
- Access to transit is not equal across the city: two-thirds of the unemployed live in parts of the city with low and very low access to transit, making it harder for people without jobs to find jobs.
- Active transportation is growing, with more people walking and cycling to work, but most improvements come from those who work within five kilometres of the city’s core.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND BELONGING
- More people are feeling a sense of belonging to the city of Toronto (69% in 2016, up from 58% in 2007).
- But the percentage of people who volunteer more than four hours a month dropped to 51% from 68% in the last five years, and donations as a percentage of income have declined to 0.9%, down from 1.4%, in the last decade.
- Most of the charitable revenue (66%) goes to large institutions, such as universities and hospitals, which make up just 1% of charities.
- Despite challenges, most believe that by working together they can make a big difference.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
- Toronto is physically healthy versus Canada, with a high life expectancy and lower death rates.
- Despite strong physical health, Toronto is one of the least happy cities in the country and has a very rapidly growing youth mental health crisis, with hospitalizations due to mental health doubling in the last decade.
- This has coincided with rapidly increasing opioid deaths, hospitalizations from alcohol, and growing hospitalizations from eating disorders.
- Low-income residents in Toronto have much worse physical and mental health outcomes.
- Toronto is among the most educated cities in the most educated country in the world.
- High-school graduation rates keep improving (86% in 2017, up from 73% in 2007), with big improvements for many overlooked groups; still, the lowest income groups are three times more likely to drop out than the highest.
- Tuition is increasing far faster than inflation, even as more people are going to university, causing more and more students to graduate with higher levels of debt.
- Many newcomers with advanced degrees are working in jobs requiring no education.
- After decades of decreases in severe crimes, overall crime has risen for four straight years, though most severe crimes are still far below their highs of decades past.
- Murder and attempted murder were at historic highs last year, far higher than past decades.
- White residents were three times more likely to report they believe that police officers will treat someone of their ethnic background fairly compared to Black residents.
- Of those with less than $30,000 in annual household incomes, 29% felt unsafe walking at night compared to only 11% in neighbourhoods with residents who earn more than $100,00 in annual income.