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Speakers Corner: Excitement and frustration in Canada’s boom town

Last Updated Oct 16, 2021 at 5:20 pm EDT

Speakers Corner is back! CityNews wants to hear from you. We’ve been asking you to send us interesting stories, videos or questions you want answered. The Queen Street booth maybe a thing of the past, but we’re still listening and want to hear what’s on your mind.

This week brings us 57 kilometres east of Toronto to Oshawa where residents are speaking out about the explosion of growth there. You may have heard, Oshawa was recently listed one of the fastest growing cities in all of Canada and it comes with some growing pains.

It’s fueled by an increase in jobs and an influx of people looking to escape higher housing costs in communities closer to Toronto.

Lenny Dedier moved to Oshawa seven years ago to escape big city life in Toronto.

“I don’t regret the move at all but things have changed over the past few years.”

Dedier told us the unsheltered population has increased.

“This needs to be addressed. The images from the streets near downtown will shock you,” he said. “They need help.”

Dedier blames the rising cost of housing in the booming city. While prices have not reached levels you’ll see closer to Toronto city limits, they’re rising fast. Rent is up and the average cost of a home is near $700,000 — a market benefitting some, like Lexanne Cooper.

“With the market the way it is, I could not refuse listing it,” she said. “I got a very good price, five times the amount I purchased it for several years ago.”

But for younger couples, the market is pricing them out.

“We’re looking for a new place and it’s hard. Prices are getting up there,” said Corey Spiers. He and his partner are in their thirties, employed full time, but have not been able to find a home they can afford.

“I grew up here and never thought home ownership would’ve been as tough as it is now,” he said.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter doesn’t shy away from both touting Oshawa’s growth and addressing residents’ concerns head on.

“We’re going to have the same issues that big cities have.”

Carter says City Hall is working to address several of those issues and questions.

“How do we continue to make sure we build healthy and vibrant communities? How do we do our planning and engineering plans so it meets the needs of today’s residents? A population that is changing dramatically.”

The Mayor says the City is working to help those who are living on the streets.

“We have an unsheltered population that needs assistance and services. Specialized care is coming in.”

So are jobs, he says. General Motors, which closed down its Oshawa plant in 2019, is gearing up to restart production creating 1,700 jobs.

Healthcare and education are also big employers in Oshawa and Mayor Carter says more good news is coming to bring more jobs.

“We’re seeing a lot of American and Canadian companies relocating to this city, more local jobs, more local investment,” he said. “You always have to manage your growth and do it in a strategic way and we’ve been very strategic about how we’ve done it.”

The Mayor told us other issues, like traffic management, are also being addressed.

“We’ve got aging infrastructure,” he said. “We have to make investments there which I am glad our city council is doing. Our transit system had to change.”

With no signs of growth slowing down, people in Oshawa are learning to deal with the good and the bad.

“Do I want to leave? No. I like it here,” Spiers said. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hope we get that random chance of buying a home and staying.”

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