By Ted McIntyre
As the provincial election looms, where do party leaders stand on housing issues?
On or before June 2, Ontarians will head to the polls to determine who will lead them into the immediate future, with municipal elections to follow on Oct. 24.
Rarely, if ever, have Ontario voters held more passionate viewpoints as to their preferred direction, with the lingering effects of the pandemic triggering health, economic and social policy concerns, combined with a mounting housing crisis.
The residential construction industry, which contributes more than $55 billion to Ontario’s economy, while employing more than 477,000 people across the province, is also paying very close attention to the respective party policies as members formulate their voting strategy. From the challenges of homeownership unaffordability to the costs of building, trade shortages, supply chain delays, the speed of bringing projects to market and infrastructure supports, there is no shortage of things keeping industry members up late at night.
We posted three questions to each of the four parties to see what their respective plans are to address some of the most pressing concerns of the home building industry. Each response can be attributed to the respective party leader, except for the PC Party, where the minister responsible for that specific portfolio has answered directly. Their answers were only edited for grammar or clarity and have not been abridged in any way.
“Lack of supply is definitely one contributing factor to the rapid rise in housing costs in Ontario. The Ontario Greens have proposed a housing strategy based on three key pillars: Connected (communities to live, work and play), Affordable (homes that people can afford) and Sustainable (housing that works for people and the planet).
“Our strategies for building more housing supply include:
1. Build 100,000 affordable rental units and maintain an affordable housing supply, and build 60,000 permanent supportive housing units over the next decade through innovative partnerships with public, private and non-profit housing organizations. And increase incentives and streamline approvals for permanently affordable housing developments.
2. Support infill development with policies, such as allowing a minimum of duplex and triplex construction as-of-right in all residentially zoned areas; expand as-of-right zoning within existing urban boundaries, and increase incentives and streamline the application process for homeowners to add affordable rental units to their primary residence.
3. Pre-zone for ‘missing middle’ and mid-rise on transit corridors and main streets. This will help get projects moving faster and reduce building costs.
4. Require minimum densities along transit corridors as part of the existing Growth Plan and transit funding agreements between the province and municipalities.
5. Where safe and appropriate, develop a framework that encourages the construction of units on commercial property, such as abandoned plazas and warehouses.
6. Work with all levels of government to take advantage of every opportunity to transform appropriate publicly owned land for permanently affordable housing and attainable homeownership options in the province.
7. End mandatory minimum parking requirements for all new developments.”
Mike Schreiner, Green Party
“Absolutely. There is no solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t begin with supply. Ontario Liberals believe that increasing housing supply, protecting renters and building affordable housing are key to creating a housing market that works for everyone. We have consulted widely, including with home builders, to ensure we get our housing affordability plan right. I look forward to sharing the details of our plan soon.”
Steven Del Duca, Liberal Party
“Ontario definitely needs new housing supply to ensure that every Ontarian has a decent, safe and affordable place to live, and that we are meeting the needs of projected population growth. We can’t just build million-dollar high-rise condos and luxury homes—we need ‘missing middle’ homes, including duplexes and townhomes for families.
“Increasing supply is critical, but there are other pieces to the puzzle. Solving Ontario’s housing crisis will take a comprehensive approach that must also include: instituting measures to curb speculation so that housing prices are stabilized; allowing municipalities to shift property taxes onto the very wealthiest to ease the pressure on middle-class families; creating stronger protections for renters; making changes to zoning rules to help us build within existing neighbourhoods close to the services Ontarians need; and government investment in affordable housing. An Ontario NDP government would do all these things, as outlined in our Housing platform, including a commitment to fund the construction of at least 99,000 affordable housing and supportive housing units.”
Andrea Horwath, NDP
“It’s no secret: Ontario has a housing crisis. As demand has outpaced supply over the past decade under the previous government’s mismanagement and inaction, home and rental prices are being driven further out of reach for too many Ontarians. Over the past three and a half years as Minister, I have introduced policies and provided tools to our municipal partners that are working to increase supply of all kinds of homes with real results.
“Through the More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan, we’ve made it easier to build homes faster by cutting red tape, accelerating timelines and encouraging innovation, which OREA called “the most pro-homeownership legislation in a decade.” For example, we’ve exempted or deferred development charges on priority housing types like non-profits and rentals, and we’ve provided municipalities with the tools to accelerate housing in their communities, such as by facilitating new residential construction around major transit station areas, and accelerating timelines for zoning bylaws and for municipalities to update their Official Plans.
“Our policies have delivered real results: In 2020, Ontario saw the highest record of new homes being built in a decade and new rental units being created since 1992. And these trends continued in 2021: Ontario had over 100,000 housing starts, the highest level in over 30 years, and more than 13,000 rental starts, the highest level since 1991.
“Additionally, through the use of Minister’s Zoning Orders, we have helped accelerate the creation of over 49,000 housing units, including more than 600 supportive housing units.
“But there is still more to do to address the supply crisis. In fact, a recent Scotiabank housing report concludes that Ontario would need 1.2 million new homes just to match the per capita housing ratio of our G7 peers.
“To identify and implement solutions, Premier Ford and I have been consulting with municipalities through our Ontario-Municipal Housing Summit and the Rural Housing Roundtable, as well as with the public through an online consultation. A common theme we’ve heard through our consultations is that bureaucratic red tape is causing too many delays, which is further driving home and rental prices up.
“We know the key to building more homes is building homes faster. To help municipalities unlock and fast-track more housing in their communities, I created a new $45 million Streamline Development Approvals Fund, provided over $8 million through the Audit and Accountability Fund, and opened up a third intake of the Municipal Modernization Program for smaller, rural municipalities.
“I also created a Housing Affordability Task Force to provide expert recommendations for additional measures our government can implement with our partners in their report, which was published February 8th.
“Addressing the housing supply crisis is a long-term strategy that requires long-term commitment and coordination at all levels of government. Under Premier Ford’s leadership, our government will continue to use every resource at our disposal to get more homes built at the pace Ontarians need and deserve.”
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
“Green jobs are the jobs of both the future and the present. We would invest in an historic Green Building Retrofit Program that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, save people and businesses money by saving energy, and address the climate crisis. Specifically, as part of our Roadmap to Net-Zero climate plan, we would give 60,000 young people the skills, experience and opportunities to do energy retrofits and to install renewable energy systems, with targeted recruitment of women, Indigenous people and racialized communities. We would provide one year of free tuition for new, green careers at Ontario community colleges and guarantee one year of paid, on-the-job apprenticeships through a Climate Youth Corps and groups like Hammer Head.”
Mike Schreiner, Green Party
“This is an issue very important to me, and one I championed while working with the Carpenters District Council of Ontario. Making sure Ontario’s workforce meets our needs as a province is critical. We can’t build the volume of housing and infrastructure we need without adding thousands of tradespeople to the workforce. Ontario Liberals would focus on access to education and training to make sure anybody who wants to join the skilled trades is able to without facing barriers. Our plan will include ensuring every high school has shop class and increasing support for innovative upskilling initiatives led by employers and industry.”
Steven Del Duca, Liberal Party
“Skilled tradespeople are invaluable to Ontario’s economy. At the same time, many in Ontario—particularly many young people—are struggling to find stable, well-paid work. The government must ensure that training programs for the skilled trades are affordable and provide clear pathways to paid apprenticeship and employment opportunities.
“Our party’s Climate and Jobs platform commits to investing in job training and placement, especially in the trades. We’ll partner with labour and industry to ensure anyone who wants to learn a skilled trade gets the education, training and job placement they need. We’ll open community-run recruitment centres for the skilled trades and make job training accessible province-wide by bringing job training opportunities to places where Ontarians actually live, including to colleges and training institutes in Northern Ontario, and give support to community-run employment and training centres. We’ll work with universities, colleges and employers to fund and fast-track workers with industry experience and provide tuition grants for programs geared toward expanding the net-zero economy. Our plan will also help recruit and train people typically excluded from skilled trades, including women, racialized people and Indigenous peoples.”
Andrea Horwath, NDP
“I grew up with home builders and tradespeople working in our family home hardware building centre in Southwestern Ontario, so I certainly value their work. It’s my mission and my party’s mission to get more people into the skilled trades. It’s a generational challenge right now. One in three journeypersons today is over the age of 55, and we need 100,000 construction workers over the next several years. We’re spending $1.5 billion over four years to build that labour supply—that’s $1.1 billion more than the former government—so that’s how much of a focus it is for us.
“Yes, a number of initiatives will take time. We started introducing the skilled trades last fall into elementary schools. And last September, I sent dozens of recruiters into every single high school to compete head-on with university recruiters—to tell young people that careers in the skilled trades are meaningful and well-paying—in many cases they pay six figures and you can start your own business.
“For immediate action, one of the biggest opportunities we have is through immigration. Last fall we passed the Working for Workers bill, which recognizes international credentials in the skilled trades. Only 25% of the immigrants in Ontario are working in a profession they studied in, so there’s huge potential there.
“Everything I’m doing is built around three pillars: ending the stigma around the trades, simplifying the apprenticeship system and getting employers to hire apprentices. There is a stigma among parents, some educators and some young people that a career in the skilled trades is second-class, but there’s nothing further from the truth. You don’t have to go to university to be successful in life. There are other pathways, and there are 140 trades to choose from in Ontario. And many make more than people with PhDs. The average wage of an elevator mechanic is $108,000 a year!”
Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development of Ontario.
“We can reduce climate pollution and improve people’s lives by redesigning communities, by building accessible, fast and affordable public transit, and by making streets safer for walking and cycling. We are committed to making transit clean, convenient, frequent, fast, safe, affordable and accessible, and to support transit-oriented development as follows:
1. Pre-zone for ‘missing middle’ and mid-rise on transit corridors and main streets. This will help get projects moving faster and reduce building costs.
2. Require minimum densities along transit corridors as part of the Growth Plan and transit funding agreements between the province and municipalities.
3. Revise the Growth Plan to promote healthy density.
4. Require that intensification targets are met with distributed density throughout urbanized areas. Density should not only be achieved through tall condos in high-growth areas.
5. Develop ‘15-minute’ neighbourhoods by working with municipalities on rezoning, using a framework that is flexible to suit a variety of towns and cities across the province.”
Mike Schreiner, Green Party
“Ontario Liberals believe in building communities sustainably and responsibly. Reliable and affordable public transit is critical to keep Ontario moving, unlock gridlock and connect people with jobs, education and their communities. For too long in Ontario, political parties have ripped up or ignored existing transit plans, delaying progress and contributing to more gridlock. Ontario Liberals are committed to following through on all existing funded transit plans in Ontario.
“We also need to make sure projects are planned with genuine community engagement and economic and social benefits, including local job creation, training and relief for small businesses. We are also committed to funding the two-way, all-day Milton GO Line, which will make commutes easier for those living in the growing communities of Milton and Mississauga. I am excited about the Ontario Liberal transit platform we are now finalizing and will release shortly.”
Steven Del Duca, Liberal Party
“Affordable, reliable and fast public transit is an important piece to reducing congestion and encouraging the construction of housing that’s accessible to where Ontarians work, connect with loved ones and access services and amenities. An Ontario NDP government would invest in municipal transit systems to dramatically improve service and make fares more affordable. Our commitment to building faster, better, more affordable transit includes covering 50% of net transit and paratransit operating costs across Ontario, immediately finishing the Toronto Downtown Relief Line and Ontario Line, bringing all-day GO service between Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto and year-round GO rail service between Niagara and Toronto. We will also electrify GO networks and the UP Express, and make sure GO planning integrates with density plans to reduce the number of cars on the road and lower our emissions.”
Andrea Horwath, NDP
“Our government is working hard to put affordable homeownership and rental in reach of more Ontarians and their families, and to provide more people with the opportunity to live closer to where they work. That’s why I introduced the More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan. It puts Ontarians first. We are making it easier to build the right types of homes in the right places, to make housing more affordable for all hard-working Ontarians.
“For example, we are providing greater flexibility for municipalities to plan for transit-oriented communities with mixed uses near major transit station areas that are in provincially significant employment zones.
“Moreover, the Growth Plan helps align infrastructure investments with the people and businesses they serve, and bring more homes, jobs and business investment to the region, while reaffirming important environmental protections.
“We’re taking an all-of-government approach to building vibrant, complete communities. Our government has also put forward a $28.5 billion plan that will revamp the Greater Toronto Area transit network, which is the single largest investment in subway expansion and extensions in Ontario’s history.
“The Transit-Oriented Communities program is part of our government’s plan to build new, vibrant, sustainable and complete communities near transit, while reducing the cost to taxpayers to build transit station infrastructure.
“Our government will continue to work with all levels of government to ensure we are coordinating housing with infrastructure, including public transit, to make it easier for more Ontarians to find a home that meets their needs and budget.” OHB
Steve Cark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
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