An Ontario Liberal government would reinstate rent control, create a new tax on vacant homes in urban areas across the province and charge speculators who keep approved housing projects idle – a levy meant to spur them to build.
The new policy proposals are contained in Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s platform document, released Monday, which includes costing details and also pledges billions in new spending.
All of the main political parties competing for votes in Ontario’s June 2 election have made runaway real estate prices a key issue, as many worry most in younger generations will be shut out of home ownership.
The Liberals are promising to get 1.5 million new homes built over the next decade, the same pledge the NDP has made in its housing platform and the number recommended by a task force appointed by the Progressive Conservative government. The province had about 100,000 housing starts last year, the highest since 1987.
The party says it would bring in a new vacancy tax: It would charge non-Canadian owners 5 per cent of an empty home’s assessed value, and Canadian owners 2 per cent. The revenue, which the party pegs at $450-million a year, would go toward affordable housing.
The Ontario Liberals also say they will work with the Liberal government in Ottawa, which intends to ban foreign purchases of residential property for two years, to stretch this ban to four years.
The PC government recently moved to expand its non-residential speculation tax on foreign buyers across the province, hiking it to 20 per cent. The NDP has also proposed a vacancy tax of 2 per cent.
The platform promises to “prevent rent hikes by reinstating rent control everywhere in Ontario.” The PC government scrapped rent control for buildings built after 2018. The Liberals say they would bring it back for all rental buildings, meaning landlords could only raise rents each year by a small regulated amount.
The Liberal platform also says the province has about 250,000 homes approved for construction but left unbuilt. (Housing policy experts say some developers sit on approved projects to build them later, when land values are higher, meaning higher profits.) The Liberals say they would bring a “use it or lose it” levy on speculators who have approved projects sitting in “serviced land,” or areas that have the pipes and other infrastructure ready to go. The NDP has proposed a similar tax. The Liberals say their levy would bring in more than $200-million a year.
The Liberals also say they will introduce legislation to prevent the use of real estate for money laundering, and create a beneficial home ownership registry.
The party is also promising to build 138,000 “deeply affordable” homes, including supportive housing and homes for Indigenous people. The platform also pledges $100-million a year over the next 10 years to preserve and repair 260,000 units of social and community housing. The platform says these projects would cost $18.6-billion over 10 years. A new provincial corporation would oversee and finance new affordable housing.
To expedite the construction of new homes, the Liberals say they would give municipalities $300-million over the next five years to speed up their planning processes. The party also says it will work “in close collaboration” with municipalities to allow housing with up to three units and two storeys to be built across the province. The platform also say the government will reward municipalities that meet or exceed their housing targets.
The party also says it will scrap what are know as ministerial zoning orders, or MZOs, a process used extensively by the governing Progressive Conservatives to fast-track approval for development projects, circumventing normal planning and environmental rules.
The Liberals say they would replace MZOs with “a new rules-based measure limited to critical infrastructure projects only, such as new not-for-profit long-term care homes, affordable housing or major employment developments.” The PCs have often used similar language to justify their use of MZOs. Their recent housing bill included changes to the process it said would ensure more public consultation.
The Liberal platform also contains a pledge to hire 100,000 new doctors, nurses and health-care workers.
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