New housing plan splits opinion

by Justin da Rosa21 Apr 2017
The Ontario government unveiled its “Fair Housing Plan,” which has drawn both negative and positive responses from industry associations.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, along with Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, announced 16 new housing policies in Toronto Thursday.

Many are aimed at making housing more affordable for renters; including rent control for all private rentals units in Ontario, regardless of when they were built, programs aimed at aiding the building of purpose built rentals, and establishing advisory groups to study the state of housing.

The suite of policies also includes a 15% sales tax for all foreign buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.

The new housing plan is being lauded by the Ontario Real Estate Association.

“Our goal as Realtors is to keep the dream of home ownership within reach for millennials, first-time home buyers and young families. We had over a dozen meetings with Premier Wynne, Finance Minister Sousa, the Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Housing Minister Chris Ballard and other senior staff to bring our ideas on home affordability forward,” OREA CEO Tim Hudak said. “We’re pleased to see that the government has listened. For one, increasing the supply of homes is the best way to give buyers a better shot at home ownership and the government has committed to working with municipalities to remove the barriers to getting more new homes and listings on the market faster.”

However, the Toronto Real Estate Board argues the new plan was formulated without sufficient data.

“The Toronto Real Estate Board is encouraged that all levels of government are making the state of the housing market a priority; however, TREB strongly believes that public policy decisions with regard to the housing market should be evidence-based and supported by empirical data. In this regard, it is not clear that the issues targeted by the policies announced today are fully understood at this point, nor is it clear how effective these policies will be, or if they will have unintended outcomes,” TREB CEO John DiMichele said.

“TREB continues to believe that more empirical evidence is needed to fully understand the issues that governments are attempting to address,” he continued. “TREB has participated in discussions with policy makers and has taken the initiative to conduct research that has contributed valuable data, and we will continue to do so.”

All 16 policies can be found below.
  • A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.
  • Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.
  • Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for ``landlord's own use'' evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.
  • A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.
  • Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.
  • A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.
  • A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.
  • More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.
  • The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.
  • An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.
  • A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.
  • The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed.
  • Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.
  • A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.
  • Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.
  • Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.


With files from Canadian Press

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