How Ontario’s parties plan to make housing affordable

As Ontario gets ready to go to the polls June 2, the Star looks at where the parties stand on the issues that matter to voters. Today, we look at affordable housing.

As the cost of housing across Ontario soars, those trying to join the property market or rent a home are increasingly being priced out.

The skyrocketing cost of the housing market will be one of the major issues shaping this provincial election campaign, with advocates for affordable rental housing and the Ontario Real Estate Association calling for changes. Politicians have heard the pleas and each of the four main parties has committed to making homes more affordable for Ontarians — but their paths to making it happen vary.

How advocates want the province to address housing is also varied, although all of them agree on the goal: Prices need to come down.

Bahar Shadpour, director of policy and communications for the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, said she’d like to see parties prioritizing the housing needs of Ontarians who are “struggling the most,” such as those people with low to moderate incomes.

The shortage of affordable housing options — that is, housing that costs 30 per cent or less of one’s income — is an issue which needs to be urgently addressed, Shadpour said.

People “should live in housing that remains affordable for as long as possible,” she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Norma-Jean Quibell of social and economic advocacy group ACORN Canada, who added she hoped to see full rent control (which governs how much landlords can charge for rent) returned to Ontario for all units by the party that forms government on June 2. Additionally, vacancy control — to regulate how much rent could be raised between tenants — and an end to above-guideline rent increases are other measures Quibell hopes to see on the table.

Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association and a former party leader for Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, said he expects housing to be a major issue through the campaign and likely the No. 1 issue for young adults looking to secure a property.

Hudak said addressing the low housing supply will be key to making the price of homes more accessible to Ontarians. So is ending exclusionary zoning, which restricts land use to only single-family homes in certain areas.

“If you come from a family of modest means (or) you don’t come from a family that owns a home, it’s really hard to get into the market,” Hudak said, noting he hopes to see the first-time home buyers rebate doubled to $8,000 from $4,000. In addition, he wants to see a crackdown on “dirty money” and money laundering via Ontario’s real estate market.

So how will the parties fix housing affordability?

The Progressive Conservatives

In a statement to the Star, Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, said the party plans to build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years and pointed to the Housing Affordability Task Force’s February report as a “road map” on how to best address the housing crisis.

The task force, struck late last year, made 55 recommendations including a proposal to end exclusionary zoning, which restricts residential land use to only single-family homes in 70 per cent of Toronto.

In Ontario’s 2022 budget, the PCs said they would continue to invest in community housing and homelessness programs. They also increased the Non-Resident Speculation Tax rate to 20 per cent and expanded that tax provincewide. Meanwhile, the budget pledged to look at a vacant home tax alongside municipalities and “streamline” new developments.

The New Democratic Party

Ontario’s New Democratic Party is campaigning on promises of rent control for all units and scrapping vacancy decontrol — a measure which currently allows landlords to increase the price of rentals significantly after a tenant moves out. At the same time, the NDP is advocating for an increased affordable housing supply, saying the party would encourage more basement apartments, laneway houses and “granny flats.” The party is also looking to update land use planning for future developments and restart conversations around inclusionary zoning, a policy that would require affordable units be available in new developments.

The party has also pledged to fill vacancies on the Landlord Tenant Board, implement a “cooling strategy” for seniors and other tenants who are vulnerable to heat stroke and mandate “universal design” building standards to reflect the varied needs for those who require specific housing, such as disabled people.

The Ontario Liberal Party

The Liberal party has yet to release its housing plan, but promised in a statement to the Star that a fully costed platform would be released soon. The platform “will include real relief for renters and a strong plan for addressing housing affordability across the province,” the statement said.

The Green Party of Ontario

In a news release late last month, Green party Leader Mike Schreiner promised to crack down on housing speculation by enacting a tax on purchases made by buyers who already own two homes or more. The tax would begin at 20 per cent for a third home, increasing with additional properties. Additionally, the party plans to increase the supply of affordable purpose-built rentals, aiming to build 100,000 permanently affordable rentals over 10 years.

Inclusionary zoning would be mandated under the Greens’ plan, requiring 20 per cent affordable units in some housing projects. Meanwhile, the plan outlines a $100-million seed fund to build co-op housing, and allocate provincial land to affordable housing projects.

In Toronto, the average purchase price of a condo is more than $790,000, according to a report by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board last month. In Ottawa, it sits at $479,000, a 10 per cent increase from last year, according to data published by WOWA, a real estate and mortgage planning website.

Rental properties, once seen as a stepping stone towards home ownership, cost an average of $2,023 per month for a one-bedroom in Toronto — a nearly 11 per cent increase year over year — according to a rent report by rentals.ca. For those in search of condos with a second bedroom, the average costs rises to $2,776 in Toronto.

In Mississauga, renters pay about $1,815 per month, and in Oshawa it’s $1,657 — a whopping 18 per cent increase from last year.

Jenna Moon is a general assignment reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon

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