Housing affordability key Ontario election issue for Vaughan, mayor says

Click to play video: 'Housing affordability in Ontario further eroded: report'
Housing affordability in Ontario further eroded: report
WATCH: As people struggle to contend with the cost food and fuel, home ownership remains a pipe dream for many Ontarians. Shallima Maharaj reports. – May 18, 2022

Housing is a key issue for Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua ahead of the 2022 provincial election.

The York Region city, like many places across the GTA and southern Ontario, has seen rental rates and house prices skyrocket, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board shows the average house sold in Vaughan in April for $1.4 million.

“A city must embrace the diversity of individuals — whether it’s cultural, economic, whatever the case may be,” Bevilacqua told Global News in an interview about the upcoming Ontario election. “Affordable, and I would say attainable, housing is obviously key (to that).”

Before becoming Mayor of Vaughan, Bevilacqua was a Liberal MP in the area.

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Ontario’s major parties have all made promises that offer municipalities more power to control — and speed up — the planning process.

The Liberals pledged to create a body called the Ontario Home Building Corporation to fund and construct affordable housing. One of its key responsibilities, if the Ontario Liberals win election and the body is created, would include unlocking and building housing on vacant land owned by the provincial government.

Similarly, the NDP said it would compel provincial transit agency Metrolinx to make surplus land available for affordable housing.

“You have to look at surplus land — land is key in the Greater Toronto Area,” Bevilacqua said. “Land is by far the most challenging acquisition for anybody who’s interested in affordable housing,”

The PC Party promises focus on giving cities more tools to speed up the planning process.

New tools would “streamline approvals” for housing projects, including common community flashpoints such as height, size and building structures, the PCs said. The party also promised to spend $45 million to help cities modernize their approval processes.

The Green Party said it would build 182,000 new “permanently affordable” rental homes over 10 years, with 60,000 of those supportive homes.

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A recent report by Generation Squeeze found housing affordability in Ontario has eroded at a rate not seen in half a century over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, citing Canadian Real Estate Association data, found the average price for a home in Ontario rose to $871,688 by 2021, up 44 per cent from the inflation-adjusted price in 2018, when the last provincial election was held.

“Where market fails, government intervention is required, which is a concept that today, people need to be reminded of, because housing units have not been built,” Bevilacqua added.

The Ontario election will be held on June 2.

— With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton

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