City and industry work together to remove barriers to homeownership
This is a challenging time for families who had been planning to buy a place to live in the GTA in the near future. Those who are still able to contemplate a new home purchase in this time of economic uncertainty will find fewer choices as the building industry recovers from construction delays due to the pandemic. It has never been more important for governments to work with our industry to alleviate the financial pressures on homebuyers and remove barriers to the renewal of construction activity. Two developments at the City of Toronto make me hopeful.
The first development could potentially ease some of the tax burden on first-time homebuyers in Toronto. City Council recently considered a report from the chief financial officer that identifies opportunities to provide first-time buyers with greater relief from the Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT), including potentially revising the maximum price eligibility threshold of $400,000 to reflect increased home prices in Toronto. BILD supports council’s direction on the MLTT, and we are looking forward to developments on this item when it is considered by the budget committee in November.
The second development at City Hall will help our industry bring more new home supply to consumers. At the end of last month, council adopted Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s motion to have staff prepare a plan to clear the backlog at the Committee of Adjustment, the body that makes decisions on builders’ applications for minor variances from the Zoning By-Law, by the end of 2020, and find ways to increase future capacity.
Alleviating Committee backlogs was one of the recovery recommendations BILD made to the Mayor and the Office of Recovery and Rebuild. We provided Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong with data from our COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey, which found that pandemic-related construction delays would result in the loss of about 9,000 housing starts over the course of 2020 and 2021, and the delayed occupancy of more than 8,000 units by the end of 2021. Implications would also include the loss of close to 10,000 jobs per year and the loss or delay, beyond 2021, of about $850 million in government revenues.
Despite disruptions due to COVID-19 and a number of regulatory and logistical hurdles, service levels at the City have improved significantly since the start of the pandemic. City Planning was able to approve projects representing more than 12,000 housing units between mid-March and mid-June.
We will work with the City to help clear the remaining backlog of Committee of Adjustment applications and toward greater service efficiency post-pandemic so we can replenish Toronto’s new home inventory. We are stronger when we work together. Our industry looks forward to working with all of the municipalities of the GTA to remove barriers to homeownership and renewal of construction activity as we set out on the road to economic recovery.
Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the homebuilding, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA. For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, @bildgta or visit bildgta.ca.