New fair housing plan protects home buyers, owners and renters: Editorial

Finally, a bit of good news for the growing group of home hunters and renters who are being priced out of Toronto’s increasingly ludicrous real-estate market: the Wynne government has released a set of 16 sensible and much-needed measures aimed at cooling the overheated market and protecting apartment dwellers from outrageous rent increases.Over the last year, the price of the average Toronto house has increased by 33 per cent, making the already-expensive city unaffordable for many, especially young families looking for their first home.By seeking to bring stability to the market before the bubble bursts — and economists have long warned that, without intervention, it will burst — the government has also moved to protect the investment current home owners have in their properties.Among other measures, the plan introduces a 15-per-cent foreign buyers’ tax, much like the one that has had a significant effect on the Vancouver market. While foreign speculation does not appear to be as rampant here as in Vancouver, the tax is bound to let at least a little air out of the balloon, as the government works on other measures.Vancouver’s version of the tax has gone some distance toward taming the even-wilder market there. But British Columbia failed to extend the tax to surrounding real-estate districts. The Wynne government will wisely apply the levy to properties throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the whole of which has seen skyrocketing house prices in recent years.Article Continued BelowThe plan also provides much-needed relief for renters, imposing rent controls of 2.5 per cent or lower on all private units in the entire province. This measure closes a loophole that allowed landlords to hike rents as much as they wanted each year on units built after 1991. Recently, fearing the introduction of just such a measure, a number of Toronto landlords doubled their rents – a situation the premier rightly deemed "unacceptable."The 1991 loophole was originally introduced in 1996, ostensibly to encourage developers to build new rental units. It didn’t work. Wynne was right to scrap it, despite the protests of developers, and introduce new measures more likely to encourage construction of rental units.Among them is a $125-million, five-year program that encourages the construction of new purpose-built rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges. A second inducement ensures rental building owners will pay the same property tax rates as other residential properties.