Many Londoners can't afford a house. Here's how Ontario politicians plan to help
A look at party plans to aid London residents feeling priced out of red-hot housing market
The soaring cost of homes is a pressing concern among local voters, with many surveyed by CBC News saying they're looking to politicians for a bit of homeownership help in exchange for their vote on June 2.
Voters at Bostwick Community Centre in south London shared those concerns with CBC News. You can read their stories here, but consistently, young voters who don't own a home expressed worry they're already priced out of the market.
Also, middle-aged voters who do own a house were concerned that homeownership might be out-of-reach for their kids.
While home prices have cooled somewhat in recent weeks, the average one still costs more than $750,000, according to statistics by the London & St. Thomas Association of Realtors (see the chart at the bottom of this story).
- Poll Tracker | See where the polls stand ahead of Ontario's June 2nd election.
- London voters: What election issues matter to you? We're listening
All four major provincial parties have taken notice, devoting chunks of their platforms and policy statements to housing affordability. Here's what they're offering to address the challenge facing first-time homebuyers in London's hot housing market.
The Green Party
As a 25-year-old candidate for the Green Party in London-Fanshawe, Zack Ramsey can identify with voters who told CBC News that owning a home is increasingly out of reach.
"I felt a lot of those comments very personally," said Ramsey, a recent Fanshawe College graduate who works nights on the front desk at a downtown hotel. "I personally have given up on owning a home."
The Green Party housing platform, which you can read here, calls for 100,000 affordable housing units to be built provincewide and wants to mandate that 20 per cent of all new units built are affordable. The Greens also want to open up more provincially-owned land for development and promote modular housing forms.
For first-time buyers, the Green Party wants to create programs to help low- and middle-income earners come up with down payments, though the plan offers few details or cost estimates.
Ramsey also said the Greens would target speculation buyers and tax vacant houses.
"A lot of rich buyers from outside of Ontario are buying here and pushing up the market."
The New Democrats plan to change zoning rules to create more of the "missing middle" style of home types such as duplexes, triplexes and townhomes. The NDP also plan to deliver a speculation tax that will target owners of homes they don't live in. A vacancy tax is also part of their plan.
Teresa Armstrong is seeking re-election for the NDP in the riding of London-Fanshawe. She points to her party's plan to provide first-time home buyers who have family incomes under $200,000 access to interest-free home equity loans of up to 10 per cent of the house's value to help with their down payment.
"Homes have to be affordable and this will help get people into the market," said Armstrong.
Jane Kovarikova of the Progressive Conservatives is challenging Armstrong in London-Fanshawe.
In a statement, she said the PCs will focus on boosting affordability by building more homes.
"The way to tackle the housing crisis is by addressing supply," she said. "That is why building is a key policy focus for the Ontario PC party."
The PCs have said they plan to build 1.5-million homes over the next 10 years. They also increased the non-resident speculation tax rate to 20 per cent from 15 per cent and expanded that tax province-wide, a step the NDP had also been proposing.
The Ontario Liberals unveiled their full platform on Monday. Overall, they want to build 1.5 million homes provincewide over the next decade.
The highlights include building 138,000 "deeply affordable homes" and revamping zoning rules. They also want to tax vacant homes and bring in transparency when it comes to home prices.
Zeba Hashmi is running for the Liberals in London-Fanshawe. She touted the party's plan to create an Ontario Home Building Corporation to finance and build new affordable homes.
"It's tough right now for people of all ages looking to buy a home," she said.
So will any of these really work?
Economist Mike Moffatt is senior director of the Smart Prosperity Institute.
He said the province is the best level of government to address housing affordability. But he said the most effective policies would be directed at boosting the housing supply overall. He has less faith in policy planks that try to put more money in buyers' pockets.
"They tend to make the problem worse because you're putting more money into a supply constrained system," said Moffatt. "Imagine homebuyers are playing a game of Monopoly, and you give every player in that game an extra $5,000 to buy property. All you're going to do is make all those properties worth more, but you're not changing the underlying structure of the game and you're still going to have one winner and several losers on home purchases.
"We need to address the supply issue."
- An earlier version of this story linked to the wrong policy documents. This has been corrected.May 12, 2022 9:01 AM ET