During a September UTM Campus Affairs meeting, Associate Sociology Professor Jerry Flores proposed that U of T reserve some units from a new student residence, planned to be completed by 2026, for faculty.
UTSG is the only campus that currently operates faculty housing. UTM and UTSC do not have faculty housing units.
At the meeting, UTM President Alexandra Gillespie explained that UTM is currently working on multiple different ideas that involve “some of the space [and] the land that [they] already own, and some investments [they] might make.” Gillespie noted that no one had previously proposed merging student housing with faculty housing.
Gillespie acknowledged that U of T wouldn’t be able to fix housing issues at large — “But that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to look at mitigating it where we can,” she said.
Current faculty housing
A university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Varsity that “U of T is one of a few Canadian universities to offer faculty housing.” The university’s current faculty housing is home to approximately 75 faculty members, with some units reserved for visiting faculty.
U of T launched its faculty housing cooperative program in the late 1990s. Currently, this program is only available to faculty members for four years after the start of their employment.
Physics graduate student Sean Colford currently resides in student family housing, which is combined with faculty housing. Colford was on a waitlist for nearly two years for the housing unit they currently reside in.
In comparison to his previous housing arrangements, Colford explained that the student family housing unit was a big upgrade for “pretty much the same cost.”
In an interview with The Varsity, Kate Maddalena, a writing and media studies professor at UTM, said she believes U of T would benefit by exploring different ways to support faculty in the long term.
“The faculty at U of T are a tiny privileged group of people of course, but we’re one tiny slice of a whole population experiencing a housing crisis,” she said.
Maddalena only teaches at UTM but was offered a spot in the UTSG faculty housing in 2020. Before she moved to Toronto from North Carolina, she had been looking at housing in Mississauga to cut down on her commute. Unfortunately, UTM faculty housing “just wasn’t an option.”
Now, halfway through her allotted time in faculty housing, Maddalena has begun considering her next steps. She expressed that she’s concerned about her carbon footprint due to the constant commute to her classes and office at UTM, but does not want to disrupt her child’s education by relocating and switching schools at such a young age.
Zdenko Mandušić, an assistant professor from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, expressed his concern that, once he moves out of faculty housing, he will have long commutes that cut into the time that he can spend with his family.
Mandušić noted that he has heard his colleagues express concern for future generations of faculty because the university is “going to be looking at a situation where housing is going to be an issue of equity.” Mandušić explained that future faculty may decline jobs because, despite the salary U of T offers, some individuals may not be able to afford residence in the GTA.
Mandušić explained that because of the current housing market the university’s faculty would split into “this two-class system” between faculty who are homeowners and faculty who are new to the Toronto area and thus unable to afford housing.
Faculty and Staff Housing Loan Program
Prior to September 2020, U of T operated its own Faculty and Staff Housing Loan Program by which it assisted faculty members in obtaining a mortgage.
According to a statement from a U of T spokesperson, the university was forced to end the program in 2020 because of regulatory requirements by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. These new requirements prevented individuals from using a loan from their employer as that would “increase their indebtedness as part of equity toward a down payment.” This implies that faculty would be acquiring an asset with debts or other liabilities attached.
The future of faculty housing
Mandušić said another similar program to the Housing Loan Program “would be a much welcome program as far as I’m concerned.” Mandušić and his family’s time in faculty housing is coming to an end in July 2024 but he expressed interest for the university to extend the faculty housing limit beyond four years. He believes four years isn’t enough time for faculty to save money for a house with current Toronto housing prices.
Mandušić said that he and his family will have to move outside of the GTA after their time in faculty housing runs out. He is not sure if he and his partner will be able to buy a house and will most likely continue renting; even then, he says that it will be costly to rent a housing unit that can accommodate his family size.
According to the university spokesperson, the university is assembling a working group to create a new faculty home ownership or loan program, as well as to manage an environmental scan of other academic institutions’ programs.
The spokesperson added that multiple initiatives are also in progress to provide additional housing for faculty, such as The Gateway project. The Gateway project will be the largest university housing development generated for student families, faculty, and staff in Canada. This project hopes to provide approximately 600 to 900 apartment-style units for faculty and student families. The final number is dependent on the different types of units. The project is set to be constructed at the corner of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue, although the university has not published an expected completion date.