June 19th - 2017

Provincial housing measures a success for REALTORS® and home buyers

The provincial government’s new plan to address housing challenges is the result of successful advocacy work by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

real estate advocacy program

The provincial government’s new plan to address housing challenges is the result of successful advocacy work by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

A new initiative by the provincial government to address housing challenges is the result of successful advocacy work by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

Buying a home in the province has become increasingly difficult for many consumers in recent years, and OREA has worked with provincial leaders to address some of those problems, said Tim Hudak, chief executive officer of OREA.

The provincial government announced Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan on April 20 to address housing affordability issues. This marked the culmination of many meetings in which OREA played a lead role, lobbying for measures to tackle housing affordability and reduce the hurdles to home buying in Ontario. Those measures were incorporated into the provincial budget introduced at Queen’s Park on April 27.

Victories in three key areas are the result of OREA’s government relations work: (1) Supply of new housing; (2) review of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA), 2002; and (3) exemptions to the foreign buyers’ tax.

“Ontario REALTORS® had set one major goal for the 2017 budget – ensuring the Canadian dream of home ownership would stay within reach for the next generation,” said Hudak. “The government has adopted several recommendations from REALTORS® and committed to working with us going forward. We were asked for our advice and input on several issues in the announcement. Although the government did not accept all of our recommendations, the desire to consult with OREA shows the respect that our friends at Queen’s Park have for REALTORS®.”

More than 16 meetings took place in recent weeks between OREA and Queen’s Park staff and government leaders, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Housing Minister Chris Ballard, and Minister of Government and Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles.

“We put a number of pro-home ownership proposals before Premier Wynne and Finance Minister Sousa, and we’re very pleased to see those ideas reflected in the budget,” said Hudak. “Although we have some concerns with some of the measures, we are pleased that some of the favorable policies in the plan are there because of a ton of hard work by OREA leaders and staff.”

Housing supply

Steps to improve housing supply were the focus of OREA’s advocacy work at Queen’s Park, with various ideas suggested to help make home ownership more affordable to Ontario families. “Ontario REALTORS® have been urging the province to streamline the home development approvals process, and we got that commitment in the budget,” said Hudak. The government announced various measures to bring more supply into the market, including various steps that will: reduce red tape that stalls the development of new housing; increase the speed of approval of permits; and open up more serviceable land to build homes.

“One of the barriers to building new homes is the lack of land serviced by critical infrastructure,” he said. “Ontario REALTORS® strongly recommend that some of the infrastructure spending announced in the budget be put towards servicing housing-ready land. The province can support new housing supply by streamlining the process and targeting infrastructure funds to water, sewer, road and rail projects that will unlock the potential of housing-ready land.”

“Our goal as REALTORS® is to keep the dream of home ownership within reach for millennials, first-time home buyers and young families,” said Hudak. “We’re pleased to see that the government has listened. For one, increasing the supply of homes is the best way to give buyers a better shot at home ownership and the government has committed to working with municipalities to remove the barriers to getting more new homes and listings on the market faster.”

He noted that the government also incorporated OREA’s advice to build more “missing middle” types of housing in the province, such as semi-detached, townhomes and stacked townhouses, to give young families an opportunity to get into the housing market. “Missing middle” housing is affordable for first-time buyers and young families and is also an attractive option for empty nesters looking to stay close to their grandchildren.

Review of regulations

One of the announcements made by the government as part of the plan was a commitment to conduct a broad review of the legislation governing real estate, REBBA, including an examination of practices such as multiple representation (also known as double-ending). The government stated that it will “modernize its rules, strengthen professionalism and improve the home-buying experience with a goal to make Ontario a leader in real estate standards.”

Hudak noted that “OREA wanted to avoid a situation like British Columbia, where the province responded to bad media coverage and banned multiple representation in knee-jerk fashion. Our approach has ensured that the government did not make any unilateral changes without broad consultation from the real estate profession. We look forward to working with the government to modernize the rules governing the profession, to help strengthen the sector and make Ontario a leader in real estate transactions and standards.” He noted that OREA is advocating for improved education standards for registrants to ensure that Ontarians are working with highly skilled professionals when buying and selling their home.

“We’re pleased that the government has committed to work with Ontario REALTORS® to address these challenges,” Hudak said. “Taking a hard look at unfair practices that limit choices and increasing the number of listings in the marketplace will help preserve the dream of finding a place to call home for young families. A home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their lives, and as such, we need higher standards in all professionals and practises involved in a real estate transaction. Ontario REALTORS® continue to call for an overhaul of the legislation to ensure that it catches up to the 2017 marketplace with the highest level of professionalism, fair practises and consumer protection.” The government’s commitment to work with REALTORS® is a more collaborative approach than that of the B.C. situation, said Hudak. In B.C., the government enacted an outright ban on dual agency (multiple representation) or “double ending”, and no initial exemptions on the foreign buyers’ tax. In Ontario, the government committed to work with the real estate profession to review the laws governing real estate and included an exemption in its foreign buyers’ tax for students, professionals and refugees.

Foreign buyers’ tax

Although Ontario REALTORS® were opposed to the introduction of any foreign buyers’ tax, they were pleased that the provincial government incorporated some of their suggested exemptions into its plan for such a tax.

The province announced that it would implement a new Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) of 15 per cent on the price of homes purchased in the Greater Golden Horseshoe by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents, or by foreign corporations. However, OREA had pushed for exemptions to the tax, with the provision of rebates or exemptions to the following groups: professionals, refugees and international students. Rebates have been built into the tax for people who have worked here for one consecutive year, or for a student who has been here studying full time for two years. People who have gained citizenship within four years of the date of purchase of a property can also receive a rebate. “The exemptions on the foreign buyers’ tax are a success for OREA advocacy, and we are pleased that the government took our input on this and other issues,” said Hudak. “Ontario REALTORS® are continuing to work to keep the dream of home ownership alive.”

For more information on these and other successes in OREA’s advocacy efforts, visit the Government Relations section of the OREA website.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246