Housing affordability measures coming ‘very soon’: Wynne

TORONTO — A package of housing affordability measures that could have a swift impact on the hot Toronto-area housing market will be introduced “very soon,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday.

Wynne wouldn’t provide further details on those measures, but she acknowledged the need for immediate relief at a time when the average price of a detached house in Toronto has surpassed the $1.5-million mark.

“There is a need for some action that will have an impact fairly quickly, but we also know it’s a complex market and we have to be judicious in the way we bring forward initiatives,” she told The Canadian Press from Illinois, where she met with Governor Bruce Rauner to discuss trade.

“We’ll be bringing forward a package of initiatives very soon and I’ll let that announcement take place,” said Wynne.

At Queen’s Park, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called for longer-term measures to address housing supply shortage, accusing the government of standing by as housing prices have reached “a crisis point.”

Brown said the government needs to reduce the “red tape and regulatory burden” on building new houses, and called for a panel of experts to develop housing market measures, as well as to address housing demand by collecting data on speculative vacancies.

“It’s nice that they’ve joined the conversation, but all they’re offering is conversation,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said of the Progressive Conservative proposals.

Josh Gordon, a Simon Fraser University associate professor who is studying the Toronto-area housing market, said one thing the government could do is target the demand.

“Fundamentally, the government needs to change expectations and, in my view, the main thing that would change expectations and dramatically curtail this kind of panicked demand is something like a foreign buyers’ tax that is stiff and targeted at the Toronto market,” Gordon said.

“That would have an immediate impact on the amount of demand, by affecting foreign demand, but also would scare off a lot of the investor demand as they wait and see what happened,” he said.

Measures to expedite housing supply wouldn’t have an immediate impact on the housing market, he said.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association has said Ontario’s restrictive growth plan that’s been in place for the last decade — known as Places to Grow — has contributed to the current housing shortage and soaring home prices.

But Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro dismissed that suggestion last week, saying there is enough serviced land — connected to municipal water and wastewater systems — in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to accommodate three to four years’ worth of development.

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