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Wynne meeting with GTHA mayors to discuss how to 'calm' housing market
April 12, 2017
Chris Fox

Premier Kathleen Wynne met with mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area today as her government continued work on a package of initiatives aimed at “calming” the booming housing market and making it easier for “people to find a place to live.”

Wynne convened the hour-long meeting at Queen’s Park amid rising concerns over the frenetic escalation in real estate prices in the GTA and the potential for a housing correction.

The average price of a GTA home jumped 33.2 per cent in March from a year previous, hitting $916,567. In Toronto, the average cost of a detached home surpassed $1.56 million and the average cost of a semi-detached home hit $1.09 million.

“I don’t think I can quantify it but my hope would be that we can make the process of finding a place to live a bit more rational, a bit more predictable and a bit less frantic for people,” Wynne told reporters at a news conference earlier in the day. “I am not an economist and I am not a real estate expert but what I know is that there are challenges that are being faced on the supply side and the demand side."

Wynne has promised to bring forward a package of initiatives aimed at cooling the housing market “very soon” but on Wednesday she refused to speculate on precisely what form those initiatives may take.

Nonetheless, she conceded that the price of real estate and its associated impact on rental prices has become an “urgent situation” and needs to be addressed through regulatory action.

“There is no simple solution here,” she said. “There isn’t one single thing that any government can do to change a market dynamic but we are going to try to bring forward a responsible package of initiatives that will calm this problem and make it easier for people to find a place to live. That is what is driving us.”

Tory has suggested tax on vacant properties

Mayor Tory has previously floated the idea of a Vancouver-style tax on vacant properties as a way to get more houses into the marketplace and begin to slow down the pace of price escalation.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Tory said he again raised that idea with Wynne and also brought up the need for provincial action to “stimulate the construction of rental accommodations.”

“The premier was listening very intently to everybody’s comments,” he said. “Now she has the difficult decision on her end as to what to do.”

Tory said that it is important that Wynne exercise caution with whatever steps she takes to cool the housing market, given the potential for unintended consequences.

He said that the premier should also take steps to begin to address the shortage of housing in the Toronto area, even though that is more of a long-term challenge.

“There was a fair bit of unanimity on the fact that if you don’t get started on supply you will never have it,” he said.

Today’s meeting was held in addition to another planned meeting between Tory, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa. That meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, is also being held to discuss the GTA’s scorching housing market.

Click this link to see a video report of the meeting: