With Toronto City Council set to consider a motion by a councillor to ask the provincial government to impose another tax on the sale of non-principal resident homes, referred to as a “speculation tax,” the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) is warning about the potential unintended impacts of such a tax. This tax would be on top of an existing substantial federal capital gains tax on these properties, and TRREB is urging City Council to focus instead on options targeted at increasing the supply of affordable homeownership.
Home sales reached a new record for the month of November, and the average selling price also reached a new all-time high. New listings were down substantially compared to last year for all market segments – further highlighting the inherent supply issue across all home types in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Toronto City Council has adopted a new Inclusionary Zoning policy framework intended to get more affordable housing built across Toronto.
The City of Toronto is the first city in Ontario to implement inclusionary zoning which will require certain new residential developments to include affordable housing units.
Council approved an Inclusionary Zoning Official Plan amendment, a Zoning Bylaw amendment and draft Implementation Guidelines, which will make it mandatory for certain new developments around Protected Major Transit Stations Areas to include affordable rental and ownership housing units beginning in 2022.
TRREB’s input to the City, during consultations on this policy, indicated that inclusionary zoning may be able to help Toronto’s housing needs, but raised numerous issues including the need for a delayed and phased implementation, which were included by City Council in the final version that was adopted. TRREB’s detailed submission to the City is available here.
Details of the Inclusionary Zoning Policy include:
- will require five to 10 per cent of condominium developments (over minimum unit thresholds) as affordable housing, increasing gradually to between eight per cent to 22 per cent by 2030,
- the amount of affordable housing required will vary depending on where in the city the development is located and whether the units are intended for rental or ownership, with the highest requirements in the Downtown area, followed by Midtown and Scarborough Centre. The policy also requires that the affordability of these units is maintained for 99 years,
- will be closely monitored and reviewed after one year to allow for adjustments that may be required, including changes to the phase-in and/or set aside rate, alterations to the minimum development size threshold and any other changes needed to ensure market stability and production of affordable housing units,
- rent and ownership prices will be centred on new income-based definitions of affordable housing, targeting households with an annual income of between $32,486 and $91,611.
More detail on the City’s policy is available here.
TRREB will be monitoring the implementation of this policy and provide input to the City, as appropriate.
Toronto City Council has approved a new small business property tax class, to allow for a 15 per cent property tax reduction for small businesses. TRREB has supported this policy as an important way to encourage economic development.
The new small business property tax subclass will come into effect for the 2022 tax year. It is estimated that property tax reductions will apply to approximately 25,000 small businesses across Toronto, or 60 per cent of all commercial properties.
Businesses will be eligible if they meet either of the following criteria:
- Businesses located downtown, on the central waterfront, in designated growth centres or avenues in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan:
– Properties must be classified within the commercial or new commercial tax class
– Properties must have a Current Value Assessment (CVA) of less than or equal to $7 million
– Lot size must be 7,500 square feet or less;, or for commercial condos, a gross floor area of 2,500 square feet or less
- Businesses located anywhere else in the city:
– Properties must be classified within the commercial or new commercial tax class
– Properties must have a CVA of less than or equal to $1 million
Small business property owners do not need to apply for this tax relief, as all commercial properties will be assessed for eligibility. A request for reconsideration or appeal process will be available for property owners who feel that their property should be included in the new tax subclass.
The City of Toronto has indicated that the provincial government is expected to match the municipal tax rate reduction with a corresponding reduction in the business education tax for all eligible small business property owners.
More detail on the City’s new Small Business Property Tax Class is available here.
Home sales in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) reached the second-highest level on record for the month of October. However, the inventory of homes for sale did not keep up with demand. The number of new listings was down by approximately one-third compared to October 2020. Market conditions tightened across all major home types compared to last year, and the annual rate of average price growth remained in the double digits, including for the resurgent condominium apartment segment.
Accelerating economic recovery from the pandemic has spurred renewed demand for rental accommodation in 2021. In the third quarter, there was a double-digit increase in the number of condominium apartment rental transactions reported through the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board's (TRREB) MLS® System. Over the same period, tightening market conditions resulted in an increase in average rents across all unit types.
The condominium apartment market has experienced strong growth in 2021 and this continued in the third quarter. Sales in Q3 were up substantially compared to the same period last year. In addition, the condo inventory that built up during the initial phases of COVID has been more than absorbed with listings down significantly compared to last year. The result has been the resumption of seller's market conditions, and above-inflation price increases relative to 2020.
September marked the transition from the slower summer market to the busier fall market in the in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Every year, we generally see an uptick in sales, average selling price and listings after Labour Day, and September 2021 was no different. Sales increased relative to August and were also at the third-highest mark on record for the month of September. The average selling price was up both month-over-month and year-over-year
The main federal political parties have released their housing plans. TRREB is encouraged by the attention being given by all parties to housing affordability challenges, something that TRREB has consistently advocated for many years. The affordability challenges we see today are fundamentally rooted in the fact that housing supply has not kept up with population growth, and we continue to push all parties to focus on a sustainable supply of diverse home types that meet the needs and expectations of GTA residents.
Below is a full summary of the various housing and real estate related campaign commitments released so far.
The Liberal Party housing plan is focused on a three-part strategy, including commitments for new government funding to support homeownership; a plan to build more homes to address supply constraints; and measures to establish and protect new rights to buyers, including banning “blind bidding.” Click here to see TRREB’s position on blind bidding.
- Introduce a tax-free First Home Savings Account that combines the features of both an RRSP and a TFSA to allow Canadians up to age 40 to save up to $40,000 toward their first home, and to withdraw it tax-free to put toward a home purchase with no requirement to repay it.
- Double the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit from $5,000 to $10,000 to help with closing costs.
- Force CMHC to slash mortgage insurance rates by 25 per cent – a $6,100 savings for the average person, and increase the insured mortgage cut-off from $1 million to $1.25 million and index it to inflation.
- Proposing a “rent-to-own” program with $1 billion in new funding to help renters become homeowners.
Build more homes
- Invest $4 billion in a Housing Accelerator Fund for the creation of 100,000 new middle-class homes in four years. This will provide the tools to municipalities to increase supply, reduce approval times, establish inclusionary zoning bylaws and encourage transit-oriented development.
- A promise of $2.7 billion over four years to build or repair more affordable homes.
- Convert empty office and retail space into market-based housing.
- Introduce a Multigenerational Home Renovation tax credit to be used for adding a secondary unit by being able to claim a 15% tax credit up to $50,000 in renovation and construction costs.
Protect your rights
- Put a 2-year ban on new foreign ownership in Canadian housing, so foreign buyers will not be allowed to purchase a non-recreational, residential property.
- Implement a 1% national tax on non-resident, non-Canadian owners of vacant, underused housing (as outlined in Budget 2021), including foreign-owned vacant land within large urban areas.
- Will review the tax treatment of large corporate owners of residential properties such as REITs to curb excessive profits, and will also review the down payment requirements for investment properties to limit speculation.
- Strengthen federal oversight of the housing market by establishing the Canada Financial Crimes Agency as Canada’s first-ever national law enforcement agency solely dedicated to investigating and combatting all forms of major financial crime, including money laundering in the housing market. Additionally, the power of federal regulators will be increased so they can respond to housing price fluctuations.
- Establish an anti-flipping tax on residential properties, requiring properties to be held for at least 12 months to reduce speculative demand.
- Introduce a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights to ensure the process of buying a home is fair, open and transparent, including banning blind bidding, establishing a legal right to a home inspection, ensuring total transparency on the history of recent house sale prices on title searches, requiring real estate agents to disclose to all participants in a transaction when they are involved in both sides of a potential sale, creating a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry, ensuring banks and lenders offer mortgage deferrals for up to 6 months in event of job loss or major life event, requiring mortgage lenders act in the buyer’s best interest, and stopping “renovictions.”
The Conservatives are promising to ease housing affordability through a three-pronged approach that involves increasing housing supply, tackling money laundering and foreign investors, and making mortgages more affordable.
Increase supply by building 1 million homes in the next three years
- Leverage federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply by:
- Building public transit infrastructure that connects homes and jobs by bringing public transit to where people are buying homes; and
- Requiring municipalities receiving federal funding for public transit to increase density near the funded transit.
- Review the real estate portfolio of the federal government – the largest property owner in the country with over 37,000 buildings – and release at least 15% for housing while improving the Federal Lands Initiative.
- Incent developers to build the housing Canadians both want and need, by:
- Encouraging Canadians to invest in rental housing by extending the ability to defer capital gains tax when selling a rental property and reinvesting in rental housing, something that is currently excluded; and
- Exploring converting unneeded office space to housing.
- Enhance the viability of using Community Land Trusts for affordable housing by creating an incentive for corporations and private landowners to donate property to Land Trusts for the development of affordable housing.
Tackle corrupt activities driving up costs of housing, money laundering and foreign investors
- Implement comprehensive changes to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, and give FINTRAC, law enforcement, and prosecutors the tools necessary to identify, halt, and prosecute money laundering in Canadian real estate markets.
- Establish a federal Beneficial Ownership Registry for residential property.
- Ban foreign investors not living in or moving to Canada from buying homes here for a two-year period after which it will be reviewed.
- Encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable to Canadians.
Make mortgages more affordable
- Encourage the offering of seven- to ten-year mortgages to provide stability for both first-time home buyers and lenders.
- Remove the requirement to conduct a stress test when a homeowner renews a mortgage with another lender.
- Increase the limit on eligibility for mortgage insurance and index it to home price inflation, allowing those in high-priced real estate markets with less than a 20% down payment an opportunity at homeownership.
- Fix the mortgage stress test to stop discriminating against small business owners, contractors, and other non-permanent employees including casual workers.
- No capital gains tax on the sale of Canadians’ principal residences.
The NDP’s housing plan focuses on making housing more affordable for families while helping young Canadians and families buy a home they can afford, and build 500,000 new affordable homes in ten years with half done within the first five years.
Increase affordable housing supply
- Building 500,000 affordable homes in ten years.
- Work in partnership with provinces and municipalities, build capacity for social, community, and affordable housing providers, to provide rental support for co-ops, and meet environmental energy efficiency goals.
- Set up dedicated fast-start funds to streamline the application process for co-ops, social, and non-profit housing.
- Mobilize federal resources and lands for these projects, turning unused and underused properties into vibrant new communities.
Go after “big money” investors by:
- Putting a 20% Foreign Buyers’ tax on the sale of homes to individuals who are not Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents.
- Target money laundering and organized crime within the housing sector by making it harder to hide behind numbered companies and giving regulators more teeth.
Make mortgages more affordable
- Re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first-time home buyers.
- Double the Home Buyers’ Tax Credit to $1,500 to help with closing costs.
- Provide resources to facilitate co-housing, such as model co-ownership agreements and connections to local resources, and ease access to financing by offering CMHC-backed co-ownership mortgages.
Housing climate action and broadband
- Require large scale building retrofits in all sectors, to have retrofitting in all buildings in Canada by 2050, beginning with upgrades to all buildings built before 2020 in the next 20 years.
- Help families make energy efficient improvements to their homes through low-interest loans.
- Canadians to have access to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband within four years.
The Green Party’s housing plan focuses on investing in affordable, non-profit, co-operative and supportive housing.
- The federal government to redefine “affordable housing” using an updated formula.
- Propose stronger regulation of foreign investment in real estate.
- Create a federal “empty home tax” that would apply to foreign and corporate property owners who leave units vacant.
- Pledge to work with other parties to address homelessness and expensive housing costs by declaring a national housing emergency.
- Create a retroactive benefit payment for tenants.
- Establish a national moratorium on rental evictions during and after the pandemic, and establish rent and vacancy controls.
- Support a greater share of tax revenues and decision-making authority for municipalities including use of city charters.
- Allocate 1% of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure projects on ongoing basis.
- Create a national green retrofit program for existing residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings.
- Update the national building code to require all new construction and major renovations to older buildings meet net-zero standards by 2030.
- Work with provinces and cities to build at least 300,000 affordable housing units over the next ten years.
The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) is reporting the third-best sales result on record for the month of August. While the market has taken its regular summer breather, it is clear that the demand for ownership housing remains strong. At the same time, the supply of listings is down. The result has been tighter market conditions and sustained competition between buyers, resulting in double-digit annual increases in selling prices.
In response to the federal election announcement to ban “blind bidding” in the home buying and selling process, TRREB President Kevin Crigger has this to say:
"The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) is encouraged by the attention being given by federal political parties, to housing affordability challenges which TRREB has been sounding the alarm about for a number of years. As TRREB has consistently noted that issues around housing affordability are, and will continue to be, one of the most important issues facing our region, our province, and our country.
It is critical, however, that government actions be carefully considered to ensure that they aid in solving these challenges directly and do not create a host of additional challenges. Consumer choice and consumer privacy should be paramount in shaping government policy. Federal public policy should recognize the right that consumers have to privacy, and should allow them to consent to the disclosure of personal information, instead of penalizing home buyers and sellers. Punishing home buyers and sellers for wanting to keep their financial decisions private for the largest transaction of their lives is a substantial overreach of the government.
Nevertheless, we are encouraged that the federal political parties are making commitments to address this issue from the supply side which is the only way to chart a path forward to ensure greater affordability. Policies targeted at increasing the supply of homes for sale, as well as incentives for home buyers, are key objectives TRREB has advocated for many years.
It is also important for federal parties to understand that collaboration with other levels of government, specifically at the municipal level, is essential to bringing on new supply. The federal government of the day cannot simply promise to build one million plus homes over the course of a four-year mandate without buy-in from provincial and municipal governments who actually oversee the development approvals process in Canada.
These are the solutions that governments should be focused on."
With almost 9,400 sales reported in July 2021, demand for ownership housing remained well-above average for the time of year despite being below the record July result set a year earlier. Market conditions actually tightened relative to July 2020, with sales accounting for a greater share of new listings compared to last year. The sellers’ market conditions sustained a double-digit annual rate of price growth.
The number of condominium apartment rental transactions in Q2 2021 was more than double the number reported in Q2 2020. The number of rentals was also up compared to Q1 2021 by 13.3 per cent. Growth in rental transactions also outstripped growth in the number of units listed, both on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis.