Ford government encouraging more home co-ownership to solve provincial 'housing crisis'

The Ontario government wants more people to consider co-owning a home in the face of what it calls a provincial housing crisis.

New guide includes tips on mortgages, insurance and resolving disputes

The provincial government says co-ownership is affordable and a more efficient use of the existing housing stock. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Ontario government wants more people to consider co-owning a home in the face of what it calls a provincial housing crisis.

On Wednesday, the Ford government released a consumer guide to help prospective buyers navigate the complicated process of financing a property and living under the same roof as other, unrelated owners.

"Solving Ontario's housing crisis is going to take new and innovative ideas," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark in a news release announcing the guide.

Co-ownership appears to be an increasingly popular option for homebuyers in red-hot housing markets such as the GTA.

And while the practice can dramatically reduce the cost of purchasing a home, it also comes with numerous complications such as finding a suitable mortgage, insuring the property and sharing maintenance responsibilities with multiple owners.

The new guide also includes advice on how to navigate trickier situations such as negligence, disputes and what to do if one of the co-owners wants to leave the ownership arrangement.

The guide recommends establishing a legal contract to resolve issues such as a co-owner misusing money in a common account designated for a home's operating expenses.

Housing Minister Steve Clark says the guide is part of a larger effort to create 'more choice for Ontarians' in the housing market. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

A guide isn't enough, experts say

However, some realtors say the province will have to make substantive regulatory changes if it truly wants more people to adopt the practice. The Tories have not indicated a plan to do so.

"I agree with the province that this is a great new way of looking at getting into the housing market, but what it doesn't do is talk about its commitment to making some systemic changes," said Lesli Gaynor, who works at Forest Hill Downtown Real Estate and runs the co-ownership company GoCo solutions.

Gaynor said people are drawn to co-ownership for a variety of reasons, ranging from affordability to a desire for more community or other social supports.

But the process of entering into a co-ownership agreement can be arduous and complex, though that process could be improved through regulatory changes, she explained.

For example, most lenders are hesitant to approve mortgages in a co-ownership situation, Gaynor said, indicating a need for updates to Ontario's Mortgages Act. 

She said there are also cases where "fractional ownership" in a property is not fully recognized, making it hard for co-owners to move on from a co-owned property.

Co-housing advocate Lesli Gaynor hosts information sessions on how to buy homes with other people. (CBC)

"People end up being stuck in a property where they'd like to exit but then there's no one to replace them because you have to dissolve the mortgage," she told CBC Toronto.

"There's really nothing new that they're publishing here," added Pat Simmonds, a realtor with Re/Max Hallmark in Toronto who has worked on several co-ownership arrangements.

"The whole field is fraught with difficulty, which is probably why a lot of people generally don't do it," he said.

Still, Simmonds said he would recommend the guide to people exploring co-ownership.

PCs unveil series of housing guides

Durham MPP Lindsey Park contributed to the guide's development after four seniors in her riding came together to purchase a home in Port Perry.

"They also opened up four houses that were otherwise unavailable," she said.

Park introduced a private member's bill earlier this year designed to encourage more seniors to co-own homes, though it does not include major regulatory changes.

That could be a possibility in the future, the PC MPP said. For now, she said encouraging the practice could have benefits to the larger housing market.

"Co-ownership housing, I think, has the potential to be beneficial for seniors but also for young couples looking to enter the housing market," Park added.

The co-ownership document is the fourth in a series of housing guides released by the Progressive Conservative government. The others cover secondary units, tiny homes and life lease housing.


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