TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford launched a virtual housing summit with a promise of funds to help the province’s largest municipalities speed up development approvals.

The province would provide more than $45 million in the form of a new fund to streamline development approvals and cut red tape so residential and industrial projects can get underway, he said.

Tackling the housing crisis will require collaboration from all levels of government, and Ford said his goal for the summit was to come up with concrete ways to allow more families to buy a home.

“While the solutions may seem obvious, implementing them takes a lot of hard work and determination,” Ford said in opening the summit.

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“We know we need to better standardize processes and procedures across regions, and we know we need to improve data collection and reporting so we can better track progress where we can do better.”

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said housing affordability is a critical priority for the Ontario government, and the summit is an opportunity to co-ordinate efforts with municipalities to build more homes faster.

It’s also about enabling the right mix of homes in the right places, Clark said.

Ford had invited Justin Trudeau to the summit with Ontario’s big city mayors and regional chairs, but the prime minister declined.

The meeting was previously set for mid-December, but was put off so the provincial and municipal politicians could focus on their response to the Omicron variant.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government also announced a housing affordability task force to look into measures to boost the supply of rental and ownership housing, reduce red tape, and other options to address housing issues.

A report laying out its recommendations is expected to be published early this year.

Figures in Ontario’s fall economic statement show year-to-date home starts were 16 per cent higher than in the previous year, and rental housing starts were 14 per cent higher.

In the resale market, a frenzy peaked in March 2021 at a record high, before moderating by September. But in that month the average home resale price in Ontario was 31.4 per cent higher than the February 2020 pre-pandemic level.

The government pointed to low interest rates, higher overall disposable incomes, limited resale listings and shifting home preferences to explain the strong demand.

Telling figures illustrating the province’s heated housing markets can also be found in the land transfer tax revenue. In 2020-21, Ontario collected about $3.7 billion in revenue from land transfer taxes. In 2021-22, the total was projected to skyrocket to more than $5 billion.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board said earlier this month that a record 121,712 homes were sold through its MLS system last year, up 28 per cent compared with 2020 and nearly eight per cent above the previous 2016 high of 113,040.

The average 2021 selling price set a peak of $1.095 million, up about 18 per cent from the high the prior year of $929,636.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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