Photo: James Bombales

With Toronto’s municipal election just a week away, voters are busy discussing what each mayoral candidate has to say about key issues. One of the buzziest topics being debated? Housing affordability, of course.

In fact, according to a poll commissioned by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) earlier this month, voters ranked the cost of housing as one of their top three election issues.

So what have the mayoral front runners promised when it comes to easing the city’s sky-high housing costs? Quite a few things, in fact. Read on for the top three housing issues that have been raised ahead of next week’s election.

Increasing rental supply

Despite provincial rent control legislation introduced in the spring of 2017, Toronto rents have continued to climb. The average condo rent jumped a whopping 9.7 percent year-over-year last quarter, to an average of $3.26 per-square-foot.

With these stats in mind, incumbent Mayor John Tory has promised to expand his Open Door program, which currently aims to create 1,000 new subsidized rental units a year. An expansion of the program would aim to create 40,000 units over 12 years.

For her part, Jennifer Keesmaat has announced a plan for the creation of 100,000 new affordable rental units over the next 10 years, utilizing city-owned land such as under-used parking lots.

Property taxes

In the past, Tory has been infamous for campaigning on a promise of keeping property taxes at-or-below the rate of inflation, and this election seems to be no exception. Saying that it is important to keep property taxes relatively low in order to maintain a certain level of affordability for homeowners, Tory is sticking to his guns on the issue.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Keesmaat has also come out in recent days as supporting keeping the tax at-or-below the rate of inflation. But she has another tax she’d like to introduce to generate a new source of property-based revenue for the city.

Luxury home tax

Last week, Keesmaat announced plans for a surtax on homes valued at or above $4 million. The tax would boost luxury homes’ property taxes by 0.4 percent, which her campaign has said would generate $80 million annually for the city. The money would be put toward a rent-to-own program which would aim to make home ownership affordable for 10,000 families.

Tory has criticized the idea, which would require approval from Queen’s Park, saying it would not work and maintaining his promise to keep property taxes low as a means to make homeownership more affordable for more people.

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