What Toronto wanted in the federal housing budget — and what it got

One of the central elements of the federal budget unveiled Thursday was affordable housing – $10 billion earmarked to tackle the nationwide crisis.

It’s a mix of project funding and policy changes to make housing more affordable.

So what was Toronto looking for and what did it get? And what will the budget mean for one of the least affordable cities in the country?

More supply

Much of the $10 billion investment is aimed at boosting housing supply, which is essential for Toronto.

The city was considering extending funding for a project in partnership with the federal government: tThe Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI).

This wish has been granted. The budget proposes to extend the program, which creates new affordable rental housing for marginalized people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, at a cost of $1.5 billion over two years.

“This is an important initiative. In Toronto only, between phase 1 and phase 2 [of the RHI]we have around 1,000 units,” said councilor Ana Bailão, deputy mayor and president of the planning and housing committee.

“And again, these deeply supportive housing units are very important as part of the housing continuum.”

Com. Ana Bailão, who chairs the Toronto City Council’s housing committee, welcomes the expansion of the Rapid Housing Initiative. (Mike Smee / Radio Canada)

The bulk of the $10 billion budget commitment is $4 billion for what the government calls a “housing acceleration fund.” The money will go to municipalities like Toronto to speed up housing construction by cutting red tape, and the federal government estimates it can create 100,000 new units over five years.

Regarding accelerating development, Bailão says the city has projects underway that it would like to partner financially with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – primarily its Housing Now Initiativewhich activates city-owned sites for affordable housing development in mixed-income, mixed-use and transit-oriented communities.

“I think all levels of government have to work together because if they really want to build 100,000 units … we have 15,000 here in the pipeline that need their funding and we need to make sure the funding is there” , Bailão said.

Low-rise apartments and new developments in Toronto’s east end are shown here. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

There were no specific commitments to maintain the supply of affordable rental housing by tackling the practice of “renovitions” – where landlords buy low-income homes or buildings and evict tenants so that apartments can be renovated and put on the market at a much higher price. the rents.

However, the Trudeau government is committed to conducting a review of the role of big business in the marketplace and the impact on Canadian renters and homeowners.

“As we talk about increasing supply, we also need to focus on minimizing the daily and monthly loss of truly affordable housing,” said Douglas Kwan, director of advocacy and legal services at the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario.

Kwan said he welcomed the review but wanted to see more help for tenants in this budget.

Douglas Kwan, director of advocacy and legal services at the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario, said the center “hopes for more investment in non-market rental housing, particularly from the Development Accelerator Fund. lodging”. (Radio Canada)

“We were hoping for more investment in off-market rental housing, especially from the housing accelerator fund,” he said.

“So the increased focus on affordable housing and rental is welcome, but it’s not enough.”

New measures

It’s not just procurement that the federal government is committing to address in the budget; he also announced a series of new measures which he says will address housing affordability.

The government plans to introduce a two-year ban on the purchase of residential real estate by people and businesses who are not citizens or permanent residents, with some exceptions.

But the extent of the impact this will have on affordability in Toronto is unclear. According to a Statistics Canada report, less than 5% of homes in Toronto and Vancouver were owned by non-residents.

A for sale sign in the beach district of Toronto is pictured on Budget Day in Canada. Since the current Liberal government came to power in 2015, the average price of a home in Canada has doubled to $816,720, the highest average on record. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“While I think this will be the item that will get a lot of press, it’s really not an effective policy goal,” said Kevin Crigger, chairman of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

“The supply is really what will ultimately alleviate concerns about affordability and availability.”

Another measure in Thursday’s budget is a first tax-free home savings account. Those who contribute would be entitled to a tax refund and would not be taxed on earnings

But the maximum contribution is $8,000 per year, up to a maximum of $40,000, which won’t earn you much in the GTA.

“Certainly any incentive that adds affordability is a positive first step,” Crigger said.

“But I think it’s a program that could be refined to reflect regional differences and would ultimately be a much more equitable program for people across the country.”

What next?

The question for many advocates is how quickly some of these measures can be implemented in big cities like Toronto and to what extent there can be coordination between different levels of government.

“For this city, what we need are large sums of money and funds that can be spent quickly,” said Matti Siemiatycki, director of the Infrastructure Institute and professor of geography and planning at the Institute. University of Toronto.

“We are in this crisis. We need everyone on deck, and we need that real coordination and we need a sense of urgency to back it up.”