The sky-high cost of buying or renting a home in Ontario – and what to do about it – is likely to be a major theme in the 2022 provincial election campaign.
Prime Minister Doug Ford and his progressive conservatives have shown plenty of signs that they are concerned about the potential political consequences of rising house prices across the province.
The premiere features a housing summit with the mayors of Ontario’s 29 largest cities scheduled for January, he urges municipalities to speed up development approvals, and the PC polling firm has surveyed voters on what the government needs to do to make housing more affordable.
The latest figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association show that the average home in Ontario is selling at a price that is 44 percent higher than two years ago and is expected to rise by a further 11.5 percent in 2022.
While the Ford government focuses almost exclusively on increasing the supply of new housing as a way of curbing sky-high prices, the opposition parties New Democratic, Liberal and Green are floating a number of other ideas as well.
“There is no doubt that the offer should be part of the solution,” said NDP housing critic Jessica Bell. “What the Ontario government is failing to do is the other critical pieces of the puzzle.”
The opposition parties agree that the price of a home will resonate on the campaign track in 2022.
“Affordable housing will be the crucial issue for the next election,” Bell said.
“Every community I go to, affordability is the most important issue outside of COVID,” said Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.
“It’s no longer just a concern, it’s a real crisis around supply and affordability,” said Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.
The NDP laid out a housing policy in 2020, and senior party officials say they plan to strengthen it for the election campaign. The Greens released its 61-page housing strategy in June 2021.
The Liberals have not yet released a housing-specific platform, but Del Duca promises one early in the new year.
NDP’s plan proposes to help first-time home buyers with their payout through a joint capital loan worth up to 10 percent of the value. The loan would not be repaid until the home buyer sells or moves out, and the program would only apply to people with household incomes below $ 200,000.
To increase the housing supply, the new Democrats commit to working with the municipalities to implement a number of planning and zoning changes, which they say will promote the development of so-called “missing intermediate houses”, such as duplexes and townhouses.
Targeting real estate speculation is an essential part of the NDP’s plan.
“This government is just consistently failing to recognize … that our housing market has become a speculator’s paradise,” Bell said. She said investors “easily outbid first-time home buyers and drive up the price of housing.”
The NDP proposes an annual speculation and vacancy tax on residential properties, modeled after British Columbia’s version. The tax – to the value of two percent of the property’s assessed value – will apply to homes throughout the Greater Golden Horsehoe region on homeowners who do not live in the home or who do not pay taxes in Ontario.
“It encourages investors to either rent it out to a long-term tenant, or it encourages them to sell the property,” Bell said. The proceeds from the tax would go to a dedicated affordable housing fund.
The NDP plan also includes measures to tighten regulation in the condominium market and extend rent control to apply to units even when tenants change.
The Green Party’s housing strategy shares many similarities with the NDP’s plan, although there are differences in some of the details.
The Greens promise to develop a payout support program to help low- and middle-income earners for first-time home buyers, but leave it open, exactly how it would work. They also propose a tax on vacant housing and will put the revenue into affordable housing programs, but suggest it apply throughout the province.
“We need to get speculation out of the housing market. Housing needs to be for people,” Schreiner said.
Zone and planning changes that encourage what the Green Party calls “inclusive, accessible neighborhoods where we live, work and play” form the backbone of the strategy.
“We need to build livable, affordable, sustainable communities, increase the supply of housing in our existing built environment because it is more affordable, efficient and also protects our environment,” Schreiner said.
Other common themes between the Greens and the NDP: a major push to build more state-subsidized affordable housing, regulating short-term rents and combating money laundering in the housing market.
In addition, the Green Party proposes an unspecified increase in the provincial land transfer tax on all single-family homes to the value of over $ 3 million.