Wynne to meet with Toronto-area mayors to discuss housing affordability

Premier Kathleen Wynne is meeting Wednesday with mayors in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to discuss housing affordability.

The meeting happens regularly, but this one will be dedicated to talking about issues around housing, "given the heightened concerns," Wynne said in a statement.

"A strong housing market is reflective of Ontario's strong economy, but we know affordability is a real and growing concern," she said. "Reducing the pressure felt by Ontarians, as well as providing more affordable options for people to choose from, is a priority for us and we're serious about taking action."

The average price of a detached house in Toronto has surpassed the $1.5-million mark.

Housing Minister Chris Ballard said he's heard from various sectors about problems and proposed solutions, and he wants to make sure he hears from municipalities.

"We have been working on this file for a long time but it's always good to sit down with the individuals and hear directly from them about what they think the issues are and what they think the solutions are," he said.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa has said measures will be in his spring budget to address problems facing homebuyers, but Ballard hasn't specified when a plan on rental issues will be introduced other than to say "very soon."

Sousa said he wants to make sure anything he introduces doesn't have "unintended consequences."

"We've already started to address the supply side," he said. "We're making advancements with the growth plan or trying to get more supply into the mix, but the demand is tremendous and it's a symptom of the growing economy of Ontario."

He has recently floated a number of possible measures, including implementing a tax on foreign buyers, speculators or vacant homes.

Both the vacant homes tax and the foreign investment tax have been implemented in Vancouver, where sales volume has cooled considerably in recent months compared to year-ago levels.

Ontario already doubled the rebate on its land transfer tax for first-time homebuyers to $4,000, and simultaneously raised the same tax on homes that sell for more than $2 million, but the government has said it is considering more measures targeted at new buyers.