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Greater Toronto Area residents want the next provincial government to reduce the land transfer tax and focus on policies that increase housing supply in the region, according to a poll from the Toronto Real Estate Board.

TREB released the poll findings Monday as it reported a 22-per-cent drop in the number of homes sold in GTA in May compared with a year earlier and a 26-per-cent decline in new listings of homes for sale, both signals that many people are still on the sidelines waiting for evidence of recovery in the weak GTA market.

The decline in listings is helping keep prices stable despite weak sales, TREB said, with the average selling price rising 1.1 per cent in May compared to April on a seasonally adjusted basis. Compared with May last year, prices for homes of all types were down 6.6 per cent in May.

“Market conditions are becoming tighter in the Greater Toronto Area, and this will provide support for home prices as we move through the second half of 2018 and into 2019,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis.

Mr. Mercer said there are emerging indications that there is increasing competition and bidding wars for available homes, which generally leads to price growth.

“In the City of Toronto, for example, average selling prices were at or above average listing prices for all major homes types in May,” he said in a statement.

An Ipsos poll of 1,200 GTA residents, conducted between May 18 and May 22, found 25 per cent ranked housing affordability as one of their top two issues in the Ontario election campaign.

Although home prices have fallen since last spring, the region remains expensive for many buyers. Sale prices averaged $805,320 in the GTA in May, down from $862,149 in 2017. Condominium prices are up 5.7 per cent on a year-over-year basis to an average of $562,892, while detached home prices are down 8.2 per cent to $1,045,553 on average.

Detached home prices have held up more in the City of Toronto, where they are down 5.6 per cent on a year-over-year basis to an average of $1,426,094 in May, while prices for detached houses in the suburban 905 region outside Toronto are down 9 per cent since last May to an average of $929,401.

The Ipsos poll also found 69 per cent of respondents agree that parties’ platforms on housing affordability will influence their voting decisions, and 56 per cent believe the government should focus equally on increasing the supply of housing and reducing demand for housing.

The poll also found 77 per cent of GTA residents support reducing the provincial land transfer tax and 68 per cent support repealing it entirely, TREB said.

TREB president Tim Syrianos said a recent study for TREB by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis found many people in Ontario have more space than they need, with at least five million extra bedrooms, but they are not downsizing because they feel there is no appealing alternative housing type to move into.

He said policy makers need to focus more on the “missing middle,” or mid-priced home types that fall between detached houses and condominiums, such as semi-detached or town homes.

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