A comprehensive campaign to raise awareness of the potential costs of an expanded municipal land transfer tax has been highly successful, according to the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
“We’re ecstatic about the success of the campaign because it has received a tremendous response from consumers and REALTORS® alike,” says Patricia Verge, president of OREA. “This initiative has really raised the profile of this issue. The campaign focused on the importance of protecting the future and affordability of home ownership in Ontario, and the response has been tremendous.”
The success of the fall advocacy campaign became evident on Dec. 2, when the government officially stated that it would not extend the municipal land transfer tax to municipalities beyond Toronto. Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin stated publicly that the government would not grant other municipalities across the province the authority to levy an MLTT.
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“This is a huge win for Ontario home owners and those who dream of one day owning a home,” said Verge, in response to the minister’s statements. “The Ontario Real Estate Association has been working tremendously hard on this issue and we’re absolutely delighted that the government has listened to the concerns of REALTORS® and home owners about the perils of extending the MLTT.”
Currently, Toronto is the only municipality with the authority from the provincial government to levy the MLTT. This tax adds thousands of dollars to a home buyer’s closing costs. If the provincial government allows other municipalities to levy an MLTT, it will greatly increase the cost of home ownership in Ontario.
The provincial government had previously indicated that it planned to allow other municipalities outside of Toronto to levy an MLTT as a way to generate revenue, according to OREA sources. Although no official announcement has been made, a new tax would hurt the housing market and make it even harder for consumers to achieve the dream of home ownership due to the addition of a heavier tax burden. The impact on the pocketbooks of consumers would also stifle activity in the housing market.
To raise alarm bells and prevent the spread of the tax, OREA launched a mass advocacy campaign this fall that featured a consumer website and video, a news media initiative, radio ads, social media, grassroots advocacy and a call to action. The goal was to convince the government not to allow the MLTT to be levied by cities beyond Toronto and raise awareness of the implications of another tax.
The consumer website, www.DontTaxMyDream.ca was refreshed with new content on Oct. 27. To date, more than 106,000 unique visitors from across the province have viewed the site, a tremendous reach.
On Dec. 2 the government officially stated that it would not extend the municipal land transfer tax beyond Toronto.
A “call to action” invited members of the public to notify their Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to convey their opposition to an expanded MLTT. That call led to the sending of nearly 35,000 emails to Ontario legislators by consumers and REALTORS® opposed to an expansion of the tax to municipalities beyond Toronto. Results in the first three weeks showed it to be one of the most successful calls to action launched by OREA.
The campaign also received a great deal of attention in the news media. The front page of The Toronto Sun on Oct. 27 featured the story, which was also carried in dozens of print and electronic news outlets across the province.
At last count, the media relations blitz resulted in more than 35 million impressions, with the final count for 2015 still to be tallied. (Impressions are the number of times that people in Ontario heard or read a story related to the MLTT.) The coverage was vast and widespread. Almost one third of the coverage included the “call to action”, directing people to the consumer website, a huge achievement.
“The campaign has brought a huge level of attention to this issue, and rightfully so,” she says. Verge was quoted in news stories across Ontario and was interviewed by 13 separate news outlets on the first day the media release was issued. Moreover, there have been more than 600 media “hits” – stories where the MLTT was mentioned – in the course of the campaign.
The social media portion of the campaign was also highly successful. There were almost 241,000 impressions and 36,000 engagements on Facebook, meaning the number of clicks, comments, “shares” and “likes”. On Twitter, there were 157,000 impressions, as well as almost 2,200 engagements, which include retweets, clicks and “favorites”.
“Overall, we’re thrilled with the impact of the fall campaign,” adds Verge. “Our members are advocates for home buyers and sellers across the province, and they take that role very seriously. This campaign has fundamentally been about protecting the future of home ownership in our province for generations to come.”
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