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Ontario to target real estate "scalpers" with "responsible reforms" to help cool rises in home prices

Charles Sousa, Ontario’s Finance Minister spoke to journalists shortly before Premier Wynn’s meeting with GTA mayors.

As expected, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced that pending Ontario government intervention will target speculators — an attempt to help ordinary buyers and sellers. He emphasized that the Ontario government would not be targeting real estate agents who facilitate bids. In his remarks to journalists at Queen’s Park, he compared speculators to “scalpers” who grab multiple properties and squat on them for future profits.

Shortly after his remarks, Premier Wynn addressed the GTA municipal leaders:

“Whether you’re renting or whether you’re looking to buy, the cost of housing is putting people in very precarious situations and it’s stressful. There’s a frenzy that’s going on right now.”

She said to expect several real estate policy changes. There will be no immediate relief from the bidding wars that are frustrating buyers in the market. Despite an increase in both home starts and listings in the GTA area (refer to Condo.ca’s story Home starts at highest levels since 2007>>) — these likely won’t be felt immediately in the heated spring market.

Multiple Policy Instruments

Wynne indicated that there will be an array of policy “instruments, from land-use planning to regulation to financial tools” — implemented in partnership with municipalities and cities. Clearly, the announcement itself won’t have much impact on spring’s frenzied market, other than to influence some buyers to wait and see what comes. Wynn emphasized that it is important to “protect the value in people’s homes.” She said the Ontario government will work with municipalities as partners.

Wynne complained that only 20 percent of land set aside for development in the 2006 Ontario growth plan has actually been built on.

“What is it that’s keeping that land from being developed? We have land — now we need to make it easier and quicker to build on if we’re going to deal with the supply issue” — suggesting the need for an accelerated approval process for new projects.

Accelerated Approval or Projects

The theme of accelerated approval was echoed by Ontario Real Estate Association CEO Tim Hudak, who directly asked municipalities to speed up permits for builders. “It can take over 18 months to get municipal approvals,” he said.

Accelerated approval of developer projects may be one tool used to relieve market supply shortage in coming Ontario government policy tools.

Likely still on the table of options at Queen’s Park is a tax designed to discourage speculators that take properties off the immediate market. This might also help ease the rental shortage issue, by encouraging investors to rent out properties rather than hold them vacant for future market increases.

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