Welcome back to Vote of Confidence, The Globe’s Ontario election newsletter.
Today we’re taking a look at housing, a topic many Ontarians have flagged as being their top priority for this election in particular.
Oliver Moore, a Globe and Mail reporter who focuses on cities, spoke with experts and cast a critical eye on the issues at the heart of real estate problems in Ontario.
House prices in Ontario have soared 72 per cent since Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives took office in the summer of 2018, helping boost the economy and making paper millionaires out of a lot of people.
While the trend has started to turn in some markets, years of price increases that far outstripped wage gains have made a slew of communities unaffordable for many residents eager to purchase a home.
Common themes on the campaign trail
- Housing prices rising not just in cities, but suburbs and towns.
- A lack of housing supply across all income ranges.
- A market that’s pricing out new Canadian buyers.
What market analysts are saying
“You had this kind of musical chairs effect,” said Mike Moffatt, an economist and senior director of the Smart Prosperity Institute. “People were not just getting forced out of the [Greater Toronto Area] because of prices, but then getting forced out of other communities in Southwestern Ontario.”
Add in resentment among younger people who feel housing policy is designed to benefit their parents’ generation, plus concerns that the region will become less attractive to immigrants, and affordability has become one of the top issues of the Ontario election. The parties have to offer something that appeals to desperate would-be buyers.
What homeowners and homebuyers are thinking
But there are real questions about how much of a role Queen’s Park even plays here. The growing use of housing as a form of investment, the sense of Canada as a financial safe haven and ultralow interest rates of the pandemic are seen as much bigger factors in the price of homes.
Evidence of this is the market softening in some suburban areas as rising interest rates dampen buyer zeal. However, this may not help affordability, as Globe columnist Rob Carrick noted recently.
Homeowners tend to vote, and many will resist policies that could threaten their equity.
Still, there are owners concerned about where their children will live. Others might be disquieted by the fairness of a market that creates wealth for some while relegating the rest to the sidelines. And there are YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) groups loudly bringing attention to policies that protect homeowner equity through restrictive zoning.
What the parties are promising
On the campaign trail, the general approach has been to promise to get more housing built, with the parties coalescing around the goal of adding 1.5 million homes over the next decade. But how that can be achieved is being left a bit more vague.
The Tories promise to cut red tape and boost the trades. The party has also pushed cities to expand their urban boundaries, accepting more sprawl as a cost of building homes.
The Liberals and the New Democrats both want to encourage more density. Each party, however, makes noises about working on zoning reform in collaboration with municipalities – which generally have been the primary road block to more permissive zoning.
Only the Green Party says it will force zoning reform. But there are limited electoral scenarios in which the party, which had only a single seat in the legislature when the campaign began, will be in a position to advance its policy goals.
What’s been happening on the campaign trail?
In the wake of the weekend’s deadly storm, the party leaders are highlighting their climate plans. Doug Ford says Ontario is investing in electric vehicles and electric arc furnaces as part of a plan to fight climate change, while Steven Del Duca says his party has earmarked about $300 million for a climate resilience plan for municipalities and conservation authorities.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who contracted COVID-19 last week, is back on the campaign trail in person with stops in Pickering, sharing her party’s plan for families who lost loved ones in long-term care. If elected, Horwath says her party would fix Ontario’s disaster relief program to get money to affected residents quicker and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
The Globe’s platform guide breaks down each party’s promises on key issues such as health care, the economy, transportation, the environment, education and housing.
“Suddenly, 1.5 million is the magic number to fix Ontario’s housing crisis,” The Globe editorial board wrote last week. “The problem is, in this spring’s election campaign, no major party seems to have the courage to make it happen.” Why this goal is so bold, and the changes that need to come about in order to make it a reality.
Important upcoming dates
May 27 – Deadline to apply to vote by mail
May 28 – Last day to vote at an advance poll
June 2 – Election day
Note: For both advance polls and election day, if you have not previously registered, you will need to bring ID with your current residential address in order for an official to check for your name, or to add you to the voters’ list.
Looking for more information on how and where to vote, as well as who is running in your riding? The Globe’s Ontario election page has all the answers.
Vote of Confidence is The Globe and Mail’s newsletter focused on the 2022 Ontario election. Write to us about which issues you want to hear about and express your opinion on the policies and people we’ve examined. If you’re reading this through a browser, you can subscribe to the newsletter.