Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful sets out key housing policies

Click to play video: 'Housing crisis takes centre stage in budding Ontario Liberal leadership race'
Housing crisis takes centre stage in budding Ontario Liberal leadership race
WATCH: On Monday, candidates vying for the Ontario Liberal leadership turned their focus to the province’s housing crisis. Runners and riders in the race, which will conclude at the end of the year, pushed different policies. Global News’ Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello reports – Jun 12, 2023

Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Nate Erskine-Smith is pledging to create a provincially-owned construction agency to build new affordable housing, part of the first major policy push of the campaign.

Erkine-Smith, who was the first candidate to officially launch his leadership bid, unveiled a housing strategy that also promises to eliminate exclusionary zoning across the province and introduce “phased -in rent control,” if he wins leadership and the Liberals win the next general election.

Solving the housing problem in Ontario has become a central preoccupation for political parties at Queen’s Park, after Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives made housing construction a key focus of the party’s second term in office.

With Ontario’s population expected to increase by 5.6 million over the next quarter-century, housing will likely remain a top issue for Ontario voters in the 2026 election — especially among younger Ontarians who Erskine-Smith is looking to court.

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As part of his housing platform, Erskine-Smith is pledging to move away from single-family homes and allow the construction of four storey buildings across the province while also exploring the possibility of sixplexes in suburban neighborhoods.

To bolster the construction of multi-unit homes, Erskine-Smith is promising to increase the provincial land transfer tax for “multi-property owners” who buy single family homes as an investment vehicle.

Instead, the transfer tax would be waived for buyers who convert the home into a multiplex “within a reasonable period of time.”

Erskine-Smith would also allow municipalities to tax properties “incrementally” with a higher tax rate based on sale price.

The Beaches-East York MP said he wouldn’t revive the development charges — fees charged to developers by municipalities to fund the costs of building infrastructure to support new communities — that were eliminated by the Ford government in the fall of 2022.

Instead, Erskine-Smith said municipalities would be made “whole through a new fiscal framework.”

Click to play video: 'The Liberal Leadership Race Begins'
The Liberal Leadership Race Begins

None of the policy planks came with any financial attachments, making it unclear how an Erskine-Smith Liberal government would fund the tax-waiving measure, or how much it would cost to make municipalities “whole.”

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Erkine-Smith also seems to be taking direct aim at Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who is set to officially enter the race for Liberal leader later this week.

“Many municipalities have failed to fill this void, rejecting housing applications for political rather than sound public-policy reasons,” Erskine-Smith said. “Mississauga, for example, built less than 16,000 homes from 2012 to 2021, becoming the only major city in Canada to shrink during the last census.”

As part of his policy push, Erskine-Smith indicated municipalities would continue to be under the province’s thumb with a “planning auditor” that would intervene if municipalities lag in meeting provincial construction targets.

“In cases where the auditor has determined that provincial targets and rules are not being observed, the auditor would be empowered to require increased density allowances as well as provisions for affordability and environmental sustainability,” Erskine-Smith’s policy document states.

The leadership candidate is also pledging to set up a publicly-owned construction agency with a “mandate to build directly” — a policy plank that lacked detail as part of the initial phase of the candidate’s housing plan.

Erskine-Smith is also promising to implement “phased-in rent control” on newer buildings which would reach a “hard cap over several years” and add resources to the landlord tenant board to reduce the backlog of disputes.

Liberal MP and former Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Liberal MPP Ted Hsu have also officially joined the race for leader, while Crombie and Liberal MPP Adil Shamji and expected to join the race within days.


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