Toronto mayor maps out issues for housing meeting

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While no immediate action is expected from the gathering of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory, all three are pushing for policy options to contain prices without crashing the market. "It's a "made in Ontario" solution that's unique to Ontario".

Home sales across the country hit a record high last month, propped up by transactions in the fiercely hot market of Toronto, further fuelling concerns about the city's real estate sector. Royal LePage's latest House Price Survey released Wednesday shows home values for the region declined on a quarterly basis for the first time since 2013.

In the end, it may be voter anger that drives Sousa to act first, with the provincial Liberal government suffering in opinion polls and measures to address "affordability" already promised in his April 27 budget.

Canadian officials across all three levels of government vowed to be vigilant in monitoring the Toronto region's rapidly accelerating housing market, including possibly taking formal steps aimed at curbing speculative activity.

Toronto realtor John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Realty Inc., said Tuesday a tax on foreign speculators would target too small a piece of the market to make a significant impact on pricing in Toronto.

Home prices in the Toronto area climbed 6.2 percent in March, the biggest one-month gain on record, according to a benchmark price index released Tuesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association, and are up nearly 30 percent over the past 12 months.

On the issue of purpose-built rental housing, Tory said the city needs more of it, but quibbled on whether rent control measures would help or hinder that effort.

"If money comes in but at the same time supply also rises, there will be an impact, but that will probably give us some time to also find measures to minimize the influx of foreign money". The governor of the Bank of Canada has also said that the rate of increase in house prices in the GTA suggests the demand is being driven more by speculators than "just folks that are buying a house".

The provincial Liberal government has come under increased pressure to do something about housing in the Greater Toronto Area, where the average price of detached houses was $1.21 million in March, up 33.4 per cent from previous year. The index prices for Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto stood at C$919,300 (US$687,636) and C$772,500 (US$577,830), rising 13% and 29% year-over-year, respectively.

Compared with a year ago, actual sales in Canada, not seasonally adjusted, were up 6.6 per cent. Gains in the Greater Toronto Area led the way with a 17.0 per cent increase.

The Budget will outline the government's plan to create a stronger, healthier Ontario through investments in key services that help people and their families. "It's a free market society, there's demand and supply that are at play here", Sousa said.

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