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Home affordability crisis needs addressing

(April 12, 2017) A big issue the Ontario PC Party has heard about in recent years is the rising cost of buying a home and the steep increase in rental rates.

Just the other day in my Collingwood office, a resident came in to say how frustrated her daughter is with high rental rates in the region. The daughter simply can't find an affordable place to live.

This affordability crisis is an issue that is going to grow worse unless the government takes action.

We've seen the government acknowledge the problem but Ontarians have yet to see a concrete plan that will bring them some relief.

As things stand today, thousands of hardworking Ontarians simply can't afford to purchase a home.

Instead, they are forced to rent or stay with family. In some cases, people purchase homes in more affordable areas of the province, but this often means commuting long distances to work.

Overall, we have an unpleasant and unacceptable situation on our hands.

One of the challenges in Simcoe-Grey is the fact supply is incredibly low, which pushes home prices up. This is something touched on by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of Realtors in its March report.

"Overall supply stands at record lows," the association said. "There were just 451 active residential listings on the association's MLS system at the end of March 2017, down 52.1 percent from year-ago levels."

And yet the value of residential transactions in March was $123.5-million, the association said, adding this represents a 47.5 percent increase over March 2016.

Municipal officials at the county level are working hard to alleviate the affordable housing issue in our communities and I thank them for their efforts.

In 2014, the County of Simcoe approved its 10-year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy.

The strategy aims to ensure a range of affordable housing options for all residents in the county.

Through various planning tools, the county has made a commitment to achieve, "a minimum of 2,685 new affordable housing units throughout the region by 2024."

Still, the Wynne Liberals need to also show leadership on this file.

On several occasions now, our party has encouraged the government to act.

Just the other day, PC Leader Patrick Brown wrote Finance Minister Charles Sousa, demanding the Liberals come up with a meaningful plan that will help Ontarians.

Mr. Brown noted that, "we are concerned that your government's approach to date seems solely focused on taxation measures, rather than looking more broadly at the housing sector and all the potential challenges and solutions."

He continues, saying that: "Many of your government's policies have contributed to the challenge we are facing today, including the additional land transfer tax and added red tape in the housing sector."

Ontario's housing affordability crisis will require the government to address both supply and demand.

As Mr. Brown noted in his letter to Minister Sousa, "It will also require the expertise of individuals in all areas of the industry, not just conversations behind the closed doors of the Premier's office."

Our party is calling on the government to make a commitment to address supply, including the red tape and regulatory burden, which both limits the supply of new housing, and increases carrying costs which are passed on to consumers.

We are also asking the government to address demand.

And we are asking for a review of the government portfolio immediately, to determine how many vacant residential properties the province owns in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

Finally, we are calling on the Liberals to establish a panel of industry experts – including professional planners, builders, mortgage professionals, realtors, and municipal representatives – to develop both short and long-term solutions to address Ontario's housing challenges.

I will continue to advocate on your behalf on this matter as it's one of great importance. Today, for many, the dream of home ownership is just that – a dream.

We can do better.

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.

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