Toronto may be the fourth most livable city in the world according to The Economist, but it only feels like that way to residents who live in its better neighborhoods, says Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Foundation. “We are one of the safest cities in the world, but it really depends on where in the city you live,” he said, as the foundation prepared to release its 13th annual Vital Signs Report, which looks at the trends and issues affecting the quality of life in Toronto and the wellbeing of its residents. The foundation partnered with researchers and identified Toronto’s progress and the challenges the city still faces. The city’s low crime rate, the booming construction industry and The Economist ranking are all examples of the good things the report found about Toronto, said Mr. Bhardwaj. On the flip side are the unaffordable housing market, long commute times and lost opportunities among youth and immigrants. Here are 10 of the key findings in the 200 page Vital Signs report.
Toronto’s shifting demographics
The city continues to grow, with a population of 2,771,770 million in 2013. Toronto’s seniors account for 14.5% of the population and the city now has a “Seniors Strategy” aimed at making Toronto an “age-friendly city.” Toronto’s immigrant population also continues to grow, as 51% of Toronto’s residents were born outside of Canada.
Health and wellness
The percentage of Toronto residents reporting good health remains stable, but four in 10 Torontonians reported health issues. Diabetes and youth inactivity are major concerns in some Toronto neighborhoods.
The majority of Torontonians feel safe and almost 80% of residents feel somewhat comfortable walking in their community at night. The total number of criminal offences, excluding traffic offenses, has dropped from 167,339 in 2010 to 150,808 in 2012. The crime rate in Canada in 2013 dropped to its lowest level since 1969 and the homicide rate fell to its lowest rate since 1966.
Toronto continues to experience modest GDP growth, at 1.9% in 2013. Also, the Toronto Region set new records for numbers of overseas visitors, hotel room nights sold, and contributed $6.45-billion to the local economy.
The unemployment rate improved in 2013, but still sits at 8.8%, not having returned to the pre-recession level of 7.5% in 2008. Youth unemployment was 17.6% in 2013 and the recent immigrant youth unemployment rate’s annual average was 27%.
In 2014, the wait list for social housing climbed to over 100,000 households. The vacancy rate among one-bedroom apartments in the GTA was 1.7% in 2013 and the market is increasingly difficult for young renters.
The congestion of regional arteries could be costing the greater Toronto and Hamilton region more than $6-billion annually in lost productivity, the report said. The average round-trip commute time in 2013 was 66 minutes and the percentage of commuters who take transit, walk, or bike to work instead of driving was 47.2%.
Residential water consumption has been consistently dropping every year and the tree canopy was estimated to be about 26-28% in 2013. Toronto’s 11 beaches were open 83% of summer days in 2013 and 439,222 tonnes of residential waste was diverted from the 823,743 tonnes generated.
Toronto’s schools have a third-place ranking out of 24 global metros on the Toronto Regional Board of Trade’s 2014 Scorecard on Prosperity, the report said. More students are graduating from high school than ever before, as the study reported 83% of students from the Toronto District School Board graduated in 2013.
Arts and Culture:
The city increased its cultural spending by 1.1% in the 2014 budget and professional employment in arts and culture is rising, with an increase of 16% since 2011. Revenue from film, television, and other screen-based media production has exceeded $1-billion for the third year in a row, according to the report. The city budget for culture is $55,420,000 for 2014 and over 19 million people attended city-funded or city-programmed cultural events.
Source: National Post