Ontario’s Green party on Wednesday unveiled a 10-year, multibillion-dollar strategy to build thousands of affordable homes, and to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their carbon emissions.
It’s the first major campaign commitment from Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who told iPolitics on Monday that housing affordability has been the number 1 concern cited by people he’s met “across age groups (and) income groups” while travelling the province.
“This being the first platform piece we release should clearly signal to people that housing affordability is a top priority for the Green Party going into the next election,” Schreiner said in an interview.
“We see this as an ambitious, comprehensive, but very doable plan, with components that can be immediately implemented, and with pieces we know we’ll have to implement over the next 10 years,” he added.
The plan would create affordable, sustainable, and connected communities, Schreiner said, and would make it easier for Canadians to buy their first home. He also wants the retrofitting of existing homes and buildings to be incentivized, and residents to be connected to amenities and services.
At the same time, the plan is designed to end chronic homelessness by building thousands of supportive housing units, and by developing an Indigenous-led strategy to build thousands Indigenous-owned homes in both rural and urban areas.
“We’ve looked at best practices around the world, and really tried to apply them to the Ontario context to address the housing-affordability crisis we’re facing,” Schreiner said. “Taking a housing-first approach increases the quality of life in communities for everyone.”
If the plan is adopted, Ontario would spend $11.5 billion over 10 years to: build 100,000 affordable rental homes; restore 260,000 community housing units; provide seed funds for co-ops to build roughly 1,000 homes; and establish a portable housing benefit for 311,000 people, which allows a family to receive the benefit regardless of whether they’re housing situation changes.
The province would also spend $6.5 billion over 10 years to: build 60,000 permanent supportive-housing units; cover 50 per cent of municipal operating costs for shelters and community housing; and provide more money for women’s shelters and transitional housing for families in crisis.
Finally, the plan includes $174 million over 10 years to “support and provide security” for renters, as well as “additional pathways” to homeownership. A $5-billion, 10-year Green building program would provide an incentive to build net-zero-emissions housing and retrofit existing housing to reduce emissions.
The total cost of the plan is $23.5 billion.
In addition to housing and grants, the plan includes measures to: reduce urban sprawl while boosting conservation; shift the cost burden of shelters and affordable housing from municipalities to the province; and tackle the “financialization” of housing, which refers to people buying houses as assets and betting their value will increase.
Schreiner wants to strike a task force with all levels of government to craft regulations to limit speculation in the housing market. Now, more than ever, wealthy individuals are buying houses to hold as assets, not to live in, he said.
“We’re starting to see … reports about the large number of homes in places like Toronto, Mississauga, and Peel Region that are simply vacant; not only condos, but also single-family homes,” Schreiner said.
His party proposes increasing and applying the tax to all speculators, not just foreign buyers. He would also introduce a vacancy tax.
“We have a housing-affordability crisis (that’s) been building and building and building, and now it’s at a breaking point,” he said.
“(People) want to be in livable, affordable communities … where you have an affordable place to live near where you work, and near the local businesses you support, and one that is sustainable and doesn’t pave over the farmland that feeds us, the wetlands that protect us, or the places that we love.”
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