Leading mayoral candidates took part in a housing debate this afternoon at George Brown College and all agreed they would make housing a top priority if elected.
The debate, organized by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and eight other organizations, touched on housing affordability and supply within the city.
Mayoral candidates Ana Bailao, Brad Bradford, Olivia Chow, Mitzie Hunter, Josh Matlow and Mark Saunders took part.
Saunders accepted the invitation to participate despite missing the first major mayoral debate on May 15 at the Daily Bread Food Bank. All six candidates were invited based on their lead position in recent polls.
To kick off the debate candidates were asked what they would do to help Torontonians achieve their dreams of owning a home, despite many fearing they cannot afford to.
They agreed they would increase the supply of housing.
Chow and Hunter both argued there needs to be an increase in affordable housing, with Chow reiterating her proposal to build 25,000 housing units, and Hunter vowing to build more affordable housing on city-owned land.
“The city already owns these lands, so we are going to add density,” Hunter said. “So that we can build more than 22,000 units of housing in the first six years of my affordable housing plan.”
Chow was quickly made the centre of attention when she was asked what property taxes would be if she was elected, referring to her proposed property tax increase.
Chow responded by maintaining that the increase will only affect home sales valued at $3 million or more.
“That two per cent that buys homes that are $10 million, $20 million, $5 million, $3 million, they can afford to pay a bit more” she said. “And I’m using that fund in order to support the program that I’m describing.”
Saunders and Bailao both said they would not raise taxes above inflation.
When asked what the federal government can do better to help Toronto reach it’s housing plans, Saunders said the city needs to focus on getting their own incentives right first.
“We have to account for our own money first to create the incentive for other governments to assist because they’ve already given us billions of dollars,” he said.
Bradford criticized the federal government for not doing more to help the city build housing.
“Sometimes I feel like the federal government took Toronto out for dinner and then walked out on the bill,” he said. “So they talk a big game about housing but there’s a lot more they need to come to the table with.”
The debate was briefly interrupted by an audience member who questioned candidates on what they would do help support shelter hotels being shut down.
Hunter and Matlow offered their solutions with Hunter promising to implement 400 new transitional beds to help those experiencing homelessness and Matlow focusing on improving safety within shelters.
Toronto recently voted to declare homelessness an emergency at the May 12 city council meeting.
Vice-President of RESCON, Andrew Pariser, told Humber News it’s important for the candidates to discuss housing affordability.
“We just need more housing,” he said. “I think there are lots of answers that will work, we just need to make them work and make them a priority.”
Today’s debate was one of three mayoral debates taking place in the city.
Earlier today candidates discussed the arts sector at a debate at Young People’s Theatre, and will finish off the day with a debate at the University of Toronto-Scarborough focusing on Scarborough issue.
The mayoral by-election will take place on June 26, 2023, to replace John Tory who resigned earlier this year after it was discovered he had an affair with a city staffer.