Is 2018 Ontario's turn for a 'housing election'?

The 2015 federal election, you may recall, was dubbed Canada’s housing election. An improved Home Buyers’ Plan, better data collection on foreign buyer activity, more affordable housing and the creation of a National Housing Strategy were tops among the agenda items. Three years later, eventual winner Justin Trudeau has addressed many of these issues.

As Ontario prepares for its own election on June 7, housing is quickly emerging as a hot topic.

“It’s no secret that many young Ontarians and first-time buyers are feeling squeezed by the rising cost of homeownership,” says Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). “This year, governments have focused on chasing buyers out of the market with policies like making mortgages tougher to get and new taxes. If the government wants to make meaningful change for Ontario homebuyers, they need to instead focus on more effective policies, like tax relief and increased housing supply.”

Indeed, research from the OREA shows Ontario homeowners and aspiring homeowners could well make housing a huge election issue. In a recent survey, a majority of them said if a provincial party promised to help homeowners improve their home’s energy efficiency and make homeownership more affordable for young people, it would have the biggest positive impact on voting for that party.

Home builders and developers are also speaking up on the topic.

“There have been some valiant efforts to address the housing supply issue and rising prices. Any one course of action is not enough, and we need to tackle the issue from many different angles,” Paul Golini Jr, executive vice-president, Industry Relations, Empire Communities, told NextHome.

“However, there is a glaring issue that’s obvious to us on the development side: Development timelines of new projects. Due diligence, revisions and community consultations are all necessary parts of the approval system. They ensure we build well-planned projects that serve the community, but when new homes and condos take five to 10 years to be approved, it’s time to acknowledge there’s an issue with the system. Inventory is being left for years ‘in the process’ and isn’t being delivered to market. As a result, the supply issue worsens.

“The province, municipalities and developers need to get on the same page and work together to tackle housing and infrastructure issues. We can’t afford to be on opposite sides, we have to make use of public-private partnerships to find ways that benefit homeowners, renters and the economy.”

You can bank on hearing more about these issues from voices on all sides in the coming months.

Provincial government policy and its effect on land supply and housing costs is not only a major issue facing builders – and therefore buyers – it is almost certain to increasingly become a hot-button topic over the coming three months.

Now that we know Doug Ford is the new leader of the Ontario PC Party, and a challenger to Premier Kathleen Wynne, we have an idea of what to expect.

“(Ford) has a proven track record of fighting for lower taxes on homeownership,” says Hudak. “In particular, he has taken a strong stand against Toronto’s dream-killing second land transfer tax that adds tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home.”

But we need to know more from Ford and the other parties. Over the next three months, we should ask the pointed questions, and make housing affordability an election issue as we approach June 7.

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