How Ontario should tackle the high cost of a home, according to the opposition parties
Housing affordability poised to be key issue in 2022 provincial election
The soaring 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.
Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives have shown plenty of signs they're concerned about the potential political impact of rising house prices across the province.
The premier has a housing summit with the mayors of Ontario's 29 largest cities scheduled for January, he's urging municipalities to speed up development approvals, and the PCs' polling firm has been surveying voters on what the government should do to make housing more affordable.
The latest figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association show the average home in Ontario selling at a price 44 per cent higher than it did two years ago, and forecast to rise another 11.5 per cent in 2022.
While the Ford government is focused almost entirely on boosting the supply of new housing as the way to rein in those skyrocketing prices, the opposition New Democratic, Liberal and Green parties are floating a range of other ideas as well.
"There's no question that supply has to be part of the solution," said the NDP's housing critic, Jessica Bell. "What the Ontario government is failing to do is the other critical pieces of the puzzle."
The opposition parties are united in their view that the cost of a home will resonate on the campaign trail in 2022.
"Housing affordability is going to be the defining issue of the next election," said Bell.
"Every community I go to, housing affordability is the top of mind issue outside of COVID," said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
"It's now no longer just a concern, it is a true full-blown crisis around supply and affordability," said Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca.
The NDP put out a housing policy in 2020, and senior party officials say they plan to beef it up for the election campaign. The Green Party issued its 61-page housing strategy in June of 2021.
The Liberals have yet to release a housing-specific platform but Del Duca is promising one early in the new year.
The NDP's plan proposes to help first-time homebuyers with their down payment through a shared equity loan worth up to 10 per cent of the value. The loan would not have to be repaid until the homebuyer sells or moves out, and the program would apply only to people with household incomes below $200,000.
To boost housing supply, the New Democrats are pledging to work with municipalities to implement a range of planning and zoning changes that they say would encourage the development of so-called "missing middle" homes, such as duplexes and townhouses.
Targeting real-estate speculation forms a significant part of the NDP's plan.
"This government just consistently fails to acknowledge ... that our housing market has become a speculator's paradise," said Bell. She said investors "are easily outbidding first-time home buyers and driving up the price of homes."
The NDP proposes an annual speculation and vacancy tax on residential property, modelled off British Columbia's version. The tax — worth two per cent of the property's assessed value — would apply to homes across the Greater Golden Horsehoe region on owners who don't live in the home or who don't pay taxes in Ontario.
"It incentivizes investors to either rent out that home to a long-term renter or it incentivizes them to sell the property," said Bell. 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 expand 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 down payment support program to help low and middle-income first-time homebuyers, but are leaving open precisely how it would work. They also propose a vacant homes tax, and would put the revenue into affordable housing programs, but suggest that it apply across the province.
"We have to get speculation out of the housing market. Homes should be for people," said Schreiner.
Zoning and planning changes that encourage what the Green Party calls "inclusive, accessible neighbourhoods where we live, work and play" form the backbone of the strategy.
"We need to be building livable, affordable, sustainable communities, increasing housing supply within our existing built environment because that's more affordable, efficient and also protects our environment," said Schreiner.
Other shared themes between the Greens and NDP: a major push to build more government-subsidized affordable housing, regulating short-term rentals and tackling money laundering in the housing market.
In addition, the Green Party proposes an unspecified increase to the provincial land transfer tax on all single-family homes valued over $3 million.