69% Of Torontonians Say Housing Issues Will Affect Their Vote

TORONTO — A majority of voters in the Greater Toronto Area say they want Ontario’s next government to do away with the province’s land transfer tax, according to a poll.

An online Ipsos Reid survey that was backed by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and unveiled on Monday said 77 per cent of GTA residents support reducing the tax, which is imposed on buyers across the province and ranges from 0.5 to 2.5 per cent depending on the home being bought. Meanwhile, 68 per cent of the 1,200 GTA residents polled between May 18 and 22 said they want the tax completely repealed and 69 per cent said where a party stands on housing affordability will influence how they vote on election day.

The Ipsos poll comes as the GTA grapples with increasing demand for affordable housing in the wake of last year’s frenzied pace that caused home prices to soar. On Monday, TREB numbers for May were released, revealing that last year’s moves by Ontario’s Liberal government to tax vacant properties and non-residents purchasing homes within the province have cooled the market, but many are still hesitating to wade into it.

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While all of the parties have rolled out platforms with measures aimed at addressing housing problems, none have directly taken aim at the provincial land transfer tax, which TREB has long lobbied against. Instead, the NDP has promised a crackdown on housing speculators and an overhaul of the government’s zoning regulations, the Conservatives say they will increase the supply of affordable housing and the Liberals are vowing to work with developers, municipalities and other stakeholders to enable small-scale residential intensification that would allow homeowners to build multi-unit projects on their land.

In their last monthly housing numbers report before the election, TREB said GTA home sales in May were down by 22.2 per cent compared with the same month last year.

While the number of sales was down year-over-year to 7,834 units, the annual rate of decline was less than reported in February, March and April, when sales were down by more than 30 per cent, the board added.

It found the average selling price for all home types combined fell 6.6 per cent to $805,320, new listings declined by 26 per cent year-over-year to 19,002 and the seasonally-adjusted month-over-month sales slipped 0.4 per cent lower than the previous month.

BMO Capital Markets economist Benjamin Reitzes took TREB’s release to be “not quite a positive report” because the MLS Home Price Index was down 5.4 per cent year-over-year, a larger fall than the prior month’s 5.2 per cent drop.

However, Reitzes said stabilizing the market after last year — what some consider a market peak, before the Ontario government brought in a package of measures to cool the market — is key, especially if the Bank of Canada is going to raise its benchmark interest rate again in July.

The Toronto board’s May numbers brought a few bright spots for sellers. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the average selling price was up 1.1 per cent compared to the previous month of April.

Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis, said market conditions are becoming tighter in the GTA and this will provide support for home prices through the second half of 2018 and into 2019.

“There are emerging indicators pointing toward increased competition between buyers, which generally leads to stronger price growth,” Mercer said in a statement.

“In the City of Toronto, for example, average selling prices were at or above average listing prices for all major home types in May.”

Metro Vancouver is seeing similar pricing conditions. The region’s real estate board said Monday that its benchmark price for condos was up 20 per cent to $701,700 when compared with last May and townhomes jumped 16 per cent to $859,500 over the same period.

The board also said the composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver was $1,094,000, an 11.5 per cent increase over May 2017, but that home sales plunged by 35.1 per cent from the same month last year, putting the measure 19.3 per cent below the 10-year average for the month.

However, the 2,833 homes that changed hands across the region that month still represent a 10 per cent increase in transactions since April.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.