Keesmaat proposes new tax to fund 10,000 new homes in rent-to-own plan
0.4% property surtax on luxury homes would raise $80M yearly, mayoral candidate says
Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat announced a plan Thursday to make owning a home more affordable for thousands more people with a rent-to-own program funded by a surtax on luxury homes.
The city's former chief planner, seen as the main challenger to incumbent John Tory in the Oct. 22 election, said her proposed rent-to-own program would help ordinary people deal with the high cost of housing in the city.
"People taking advantage of this program will be able to apply a portion of their monthly rent against the down payment on their home, so renting becomes a pathway to home ownership," Keesmaat announced.
"This plan will help 10,000 families over the next 10 years achieve the goal of home ownership."
Additionally, Keesmaat said if she becomes mayor, she will be asking the province and the federal government to match the commitment and scale up to 30,000 new ownership opportunities in the city over the next decade.
Program would target people with lower incomes
Keesmaat said Toronto has become the most expensive city in Canada in which to rent, and housing prices are beyond the reach of most people.
Noting that people are moving out of the city because it has become too expensive, Keesmaat said that's a problem she would address as mayor.
"There's an entire generation that is being priced out of access to housing in our city. They are struggling with debt, they have little saved for retirement and have seen the home ownership ladder kicked out from underneath them," Keesmaat said.
"It's time to give people a real path to owning a place they can call home in the city they love."
New property tax surtax
So, how exactly does Keesmaat plan on funding this program?
She said those who have benefited greatly from Toronto's "red hot housing market" would be asked to pay.
"The city of Toronto will pay for this home ownership programme — which is designed to help people access home ownership — through a new property tax surtax paid for by the most fortunate among us," she said.
"Today I am proposing a surtax on property tax paid on luxury homes — those that are worth more than $4 million in our city. A 0.4 per cent property tax surtax on luxury homes will raise $80 million a year, sufficient to fund the rent-to-own program.
Housing a major focus over the last four years, Tory
Meanwhile, Tory also talked about housing Thursday in a campaign speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
He said the issue has been a major focus for him over the last four years, adding that his target is 40,000 affordable units over 12 years, so that people of all income levels can get jobs in the city and keep those jobs.
"I think you'd say that we need people of modest incomes to continue to work in our businesses and we want them to continue to live here," Tory told the audience.
"To address the challenge of people have an affordable place to live ... I started working with the other big city mayors . ... in making sure that the federal government under Mr. [Justin] Trudeau made housing once again a national priority."
Tory said the result of that advocacy work was a $40-billion national housing strategy. He said the program will make a big difference in the city's ability to address the affordable housing targets when the money starts flowing next year.
On Keesmaat's plan change to Toronto's tax structure, Tory questioned if she could pull that off.
He said he "found some considerable irony" in the fact that Keesmaat says the city "should be in a state of war with Queen's Park" but also wants to tell the province to raise taxes.
"I don't think that would work very well," Tory said.
With files from Lauren Pelley