How will Mississauga’s next mayor tackle the housing crisis?
Feature graphic Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

How will Mississauga’s next mayor tackle the housing crisis?

This is the first in a series ahead of Mississauga’s June 10th mayoral election, highlighting the key issues facing voters. Today’s topic is housing.  


Home is a place of calm, of retreat, of comfort. 

Unfortunately, in the Region of Peel, a rapidly growing number of families experience home with uncertainty, stress and fear. 

There are nearly 100,000 households across the region in need of some form of housing assistance.  

With the lion’s share of incomes poured into housing costs, families are left with less for food, transportation and other basic necessities. 

According to the 2021 Census, Mississauga had 244,575 occupied dwellings, which housed its 718,000 residents. Two categories made up the vast majority of homes in the city, perfectly illustrating the dilemma facing municipal leaders: 90,660 were single detached family houses; and 92,270 were apartments/condos (another 26,855 were semi-detached houses, and 34,455 were row houses which includes townhomes).


Expensive single family houses have given way to expensive hyper-vertical condos in Mississauga. Neither help address the affordability crisis and they fail to provide the type of housing many families need.

(Joel Wittnebel/Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


The trend has shifted away from large single family homes, but many still aspire to the traditional suburban dream of owning a place that sits at the top of the property ladder. 

Mississauga’s next mayor will need to balance the lingering demand for large houses, with the reality of the city’s inevitable future. 

Mississauga has not functioned as a suburb for at least ten years, around the time when it became a net importer of jobs and commuters. The way it has grown over the last twenty years, particularly under the progressive leadership of Bonnie Crombie, marked a dramatic departure from the sprawling development preferred by the late Hazel McCallion. 

The slow shift from its car-dominated past poses numerous challenges for those vying to lead the city into its mature urban future.

An ongoing housing crisis forces their hand.

Affordable units have to become a bigger part of the city’s mix of homes.

The Region of Peel estimates 74,000 households are in precarious housing situations. Currently, it estimates only one in five can afford the cost of ownership or renting, illustrating the mismatch between the housing Mississauga’s leaders have allowed, and what their residents need.

The median income in the city in 2020 was $39,200 before tax. The current average home price, according to ZOLO, is $1.1 million (as of the four weeks ending May 12th). That means at the median income, about 200 percent of take-home pay would be needed to service a mortgage for an average price home in the city. This does not include utilities, property tax, any fees for condos, upkeep and maintenance. 

It’s better for renters, but still bleak. About 100 percent of median income would go to rental costs, at current rates, and all the other expenses for tenants.

The city needs more affordable units and a different mix of housing supply.

It has been asked by the PC government to facilitate the construction of 120,000 new homes by 2031, a figure municipal officials have said is actually lower than what the city is on pace to see.

There has been a cascading effect due to the numbers above. More and more individuals and families are falling out of the property market, often first to rental housing, then to precarious arrangements, sometimes forced to seek subsidized accommodation, and, in the worst case scenario, too many are becoming unhoused. 

There is currently no space in the city’s emergency shelters and the Region estimates almost 130 makeshift encampments have spread across Peel, almost all of them in Mississauga and Brampton. This is a 167 percent increase from 2022.

These are the symptoms of the housing crisis, which is getting worse by the day.

Regional staff recently said the number of people experiencing homelessness in Peel has increased to “unprecedented levels”.   

So where does this leave the next mayor?   


Mississauga’s unique urban landscape poses a challenge for the municipality’s next leader as the city prepares for future growth.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files) 


Mississauga residents, ratepayer associations and social service organizations have all made it clear, the next mayor must be ready to tackle the crisis. 

The Pointer sent a questionnaire to Stephen Dasko, Alvin Tedjo, Dipika Damerla, Carolyn Parrish and George Tavares with detailed questions on key issues facing Mississauga including housing, climate and sustainability, crime and safety, transportation and City finances. Interviews with candidates, public statements made during candidate panels and debates, as well as statements given on The Pointer’s What’s the Point and Ballot Vox podcasts were also used to inform the series of articles. 

Each of the candidates contacted by The Pointer provided responses in some form to illustrate their proposed approach to guiding Mississauga out of the affordability crisis. There are many similarities between each of the proposals, including diversifying the type of housing built in the city; fixing bottlenecks in the development process to make it easier for proposals to go from plan to construction; and incentivizing developers to build affordable rental units and to offer different housing types for those in lower income brackets. 

None of the candidates referenced the plan the City of Mississauga already has in place—Growing Mississauga: An Action Plan for More Housing. This is particularly surprising for Dasko, Damerla, Tedjo and Parrish, all of whom voted for the plan’s approval as sitting councillors in 2023. Parrish has proposed certain policies that align directly with the approved plan. The others have also suggested ideas supported by the plan. 

As demand for housing has continued to soar, the Growing Mississauga plan, along with a range of other housing studies, emphasizes the need for more supply to drive down costs. One obvious problem in Mississauga is the inability of City Hall to steer developers. Projects consistently see a lack of units priced in a reasonable range for low and middle-income earners, while families are stuck, unable to afford larger homes or expensive condos, which often only have one or two bedrooms, making them unsuitable for many families who need immediate options to avoid housing insecurity. 

A 2022 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) projected an additional 3.5 million units would need to be constructed in Canada by 2030, on top of the 19 million housing units estimated under the current construction rates, to achieve housing affordability, and the vast majority of these should not be priced for the higher end of the market.

Increasing housing supply with a diverse range of unit types has been widely recognized as the best way to fix the issues of housing and affordability. This philosophy is at the core of Mississauga’s housing strategy endorsed by City Council in March 2023 as part of its housing pledge to the Province to meet its allotted housing target under Bill 23.

The PC government has passed housing targets down to municipalities across Ontario with the goal of constructing 1.5 million homes by 2031. The City of Mississauga, which has been repeatedly criticized by Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Paul Calandra who have wrongly claimed Bonnie Crombie fell short on annual housing starts, has been mandated to build 120,000 homes in seven years — the same number typically built in 30, putting “undue strain” on City resources, staff have cautioned. 

Mississauga’s ongoing urban transition poses a unique challenge for the city’s next leader. 

Will the next 300,000 residents be housed in hyper verticality, will large sprawl make way for dense sprawl (with more big homes built on severed properties) or will gentle density and complete communities be the legacy of the next mayor?

Which candidate is best equipped to work with Queen’s Park and Ottawa, as both higher levels of government encroach on the traditional housing role of municipalities? 

The first two goals of Mississauga’s current housing strategy are to increase housing supply and existing options by allowing more housing types, encouraging transit-friendly development and creating more opportunities for residential housing in existing employment areas in an effort to drive down the costs and improve affordability. To create gentle density, Mississauga City Council already approved fourplexes on low-rise residential lots in December and additional residential units, which include triplexes, garden suites, garage conversions and laneways suites, allowing up to three residential units on one lot. 

Each of the candidates contacted approves of this approach in principle, but there is a lack of specific policy proposals to shape a targeted strategy.

Dasko says he will prioritize housing of all types that can cater to homeowners and renters — despite voting against allowing fourplexes when it was initially proposed in October, citing the need for more staff consultation, and abstaining from the vote when it returned in December and was successful thanks to Crombie’s leadership on the issue, and Tedjo’s persistence to push his original motion forward. 

Dasko said development needs to be focused along the city’s major transit corridors. He did not offer direct policies for how this will be achieved at the municipal level, however, legislation, including the soon-to-be-passed Bill 185 from the PC government will push development in these areas. Dasko recognizes the need to work collaboratively with developers and upper levels of government but did not offer any specific ways to do this. As Mississauga grows it will be imperative to build complete, transit-friendly communities “that makes sense with public consultation as to what the people need”, he says. 

Since joining council in 2022, Tedjo has been an advocate for missing middle housing, which he made evident when he put forward a motion to allow fourplexes across Mississauga “as of right,” — meaning property owners can build these alternatives on their lots without requiring specific approvals from the municipality. Recognizing the need for more small-scale apartment buildings on main roads, Tedjo’s plan includes legalizing the construction of 6-storey units in these areas. To get new housing built, the Ward 2 Councillor says he will work collaboratively with homebuilders to get priority housing in Mississauga, which he said includes leveraging surplus public lands to increase affordable housing. This, he explained, would involve land contribution from the City, and a request to the market to bring proposals where at least 30 percent of the units are below market value or are identified as affordable. Tedjo said a similar approach will be used to drive more purpose-built rental projects, including allowing rental builders to develop a second tower on an existing rental site and supporting them through other incentives like lower fees. His plans include the highest level of detail of all the candidates. 

While Damerla says she believes in “gentle infill in appropriate neighbourhoods” and allowing different housing types like four-plexes, it contrasts with her previous voting decisions. The Ward 7 Councillor voted against the motion to allow fourplexes, citing the need for more staff consultation. However, her vote changed in December after Crombie used her Strong Mayor powers to bring the issue back for another vote. During a debate Monday evening hosted by More Homes Mississauga, Damerla said, “what I voted against (initially) was not fourplexes, what I voted against was not being given the opportunity to do my homework.” 

Damerla’s plan includes protecting and growing the city’s rental stock by eliminating development charges for purpose-built rental housing, promoting modular construction — which she says could reduce construction costs by 30 percent — and supporting gentle density in existing neighborhoods while concentrating development around the city’s transit corridors. 

Parrish says something “dramatic” needs to be done with rezoning and mixed-use housing. She seconded Tedjo’s fourplex motion. The former councillor, who resigned her seat to run for mayor, told The Pointer she wants to look at rezoning lands that have been marked as office, industrial or employment along areas like Highway 10 to mixed-use zoning to allow for mid-rise, mixed-use affordable rental units to increase housing supply. This is one of the key actions outlined in the City’s housing strategy, which looks at creating opportunities for new residential housing in employment areas. To promote development — something the City, like many others, has struggled with since the PCs came to power and began interfering with municipal planning — Parrish has suggested altering development charges (fees builders have to pay to create surrounding infrastructure) into a two-tier system based on what amenities are already located in the project area. This will incentivize developers to build affordable units by putting lower charges on developments that already have the infrastructure around them to support new homes. If a developer requires new services from top to bottom they would pay full development charges, while an infill development with existing features around it would require fewer charges, she explained. 

Tavares says the City Hall should continue revising its Official Plan and zoning bylaws to “accommodate more adaptable and creative housing solutions,” like the construction of missing middle housing — something he pointed out could be expedited by the PCs’ proposed Bill 185: Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act. He also suggests introducing tax breaks and incentives to encourage different types of housing development like affordable housing and purpose-built rentals.


Mississauga’s four-year action plan to get housing built and increase affordability must be top of mind for candidates.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files) 


While increasing housing supply and improving affordability are the focal point of the City’s housing strategy, other goals outlined in Mississauga’s four-year action plan include streamlining approvals, exploring funding options with other levels of government for the delivery of new infrastructure and acquiring land for much needed greenspace — actions some of the candidates have indicated they will tackle. 

Elected officials and City staff have been urging the Province to reevaluate how it measures municipalities on their housing starts after the Province deemed Mississauga ineligible for funding under its Building Faster Fund in February “due to insufficient housing starts” last year, leaving Mississauga without tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure funding. The Province has accused Mississauga of having some of the worst housing starts in the province, a statement that came despite the City having more than 12,000 units under construction right now.

So how is the City’s next leader going to make the housing process easier in Mississauga to streamline development and get housing built?

According to Parrish’s website, she wants to streamline City processes, lower development fees, promote mixed-use developments, and ensure the City meets housing targets to draw in greater provincial and federal support. During her campaign office launch event, Parrish pledged to change the City’s planning department by putting together a Mayor’s Panel that would meet on a monthly basis and work with developers whose applications have been slow to progress and push them to get shovels in the ground. She recently told The Pointer this is something she would like to get started on within the first week of becoming mayor, if elected. This would entail calling in developers that have been building consistently in Mississauga and getting their input on how to speed up the building process at City Hall.

“I think cooperation between our staff and the developers gets us much farther than fighting with them,” she said. 

To continue promoting the City’s vision of “complete communities,” Parrish said she would also like to create three more youth hubs — similar to her work on the Jonathon David Youth Hub in Malton. 

Tavares referenced the Province’s latest "Use it or Lose it" concept under the proposed Bill 185, aimed at preventing developers from delaying construction and hindering market growth. He highlighted that in addition to the tax incentive offered through the Bill to encourage faster building, the City can also collaborate with developers to provide further incentives for constructing a diverse range of housing options, including affordable housing and purpose-built rentals. These incentives, he noted, could include “density bonuses, reductions in development charges, or other financial benefits to make investing in these housing types more appealing to developers.”

Damerla says she will focus on streamlining approvals with specialized teams to expedite the process. Her plan will involve integrating new housing developments with essential services and infrastructure to ensure Mississauga’s growth enhances community well-being and strays from congested roads and overtaxed services. To spur development, Damerla says she would like to use the $112.9 million Housing Accelerator Fund from the federal government in December to “incentivize those who break ground”, while also waiving development charges for purpose-built rentals.

One of the action items outlined in Goal 4 of the City’s housing strategy includes integrating housing and the delivery of new infrastructure and acquiring land for much needed parks and open space, something Tavares has indicated will be a focus for him as he highlights that “investing in robust public transit infrastructure and expanding bike lane networks will provide residents with efficient and sustainable transportation options,” which he says not only reduces reliance on cars but will “enhance connectivity within the city, promoting accessibility and mobility for all residents.”

To address the lack of park space and ensure equitable access to green spaces across Mississauga, Tavares has proposed several initiatives that fall in line with Mississauga’s strategy, including prioritizing the development of new parks in areas with the greatest need, particularly in underserved communities by identifying suitable parcels of land for park development and allocating resources to expedite the planning and construction process. Identifying and repurposing underutilized land within the city for park development, including converting vacant lots or other unused spaces into green spaces that benefit the community is also a part of his plan.


To ensure the city embodies complete communities, prioritizing green space and parkland will be critical to Mississauga’s future growth.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files) 


In his response to The Pointer, Dasko does not address how he plans to expedite and streamline development approvals, simply stating he plans to sit down with the Province and development companies to ensure Mississauga “gets a just and equitable new deal for infrastructure requirements” to build the units the City has already approved. As for promoting much needed park space, Dasko says it is one of his priorities as Mississauga goes into the “next chapter” of the city’s development.

Tedjo stresses the City must not only maintain, but grow its greenspaces. If elected, he plans to focus on enhancing and expanding the municipality’s existing tree canopy and walking trails, while prioritizing improved connectivity between areas.

Controlling verticality is a focus of the City’s Official Plan, which will dictate how tall and dense Mississauga becomes, with growth currently concentrated around downtown. One of the main challenges of this new vertical landscape is keeping residents safe.

In November, City Council reviewed the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services (MFES) Future Direction Plan, which outlined recommendations that looked at current and future capital and service delivery needs, including developing and delivering a risk reduction strategy for high-rise and high-risk building stock.  

Getting first responders up increasingly tall buildings is just one of many factors Mississauga’s leaders have to consider when planning for future growth. Water pumping capacity for day-to-day use, traffic management and transit are among the other unique issues vertical development brings, but safety is the most pressing one. 

While Dasko and Tedjo say they plan to engage and work with Mississauga’s emergency services leadership to ensure they have the support to maintain safety compliance, they did not offer any concrete policies to address vertical development. Damerla says she will continue to evaluate the services provided and ensure the City’s funds are spent adequately, but did not offer a focused policy. Tavares suggests investing in specialized equipment and training, updating response protocols, and working with developers to ensure that new buildings are designed with emergency services in mind. 

Parrish said while adapting to the city’s hyper-verticality is nothing new for the City’s departments, referencing the high-rise buildings that crowd the city’s growing skyline, it will be critical to ensure fire and paramedic services continue to be included in the planning approval process. She also said the city needs a fire station in its downtown core to improve response times where hyper-verticality is concentrated so that firefighters can be “alerted instantly and be able to react instantly.”



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