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Toronto Mayoral Candidates John Tory And Jennifer Keesmaat's Ideas On Housing

Keesmaat has a proposal to build 100,000 affordable housing units; Tory boasts of the units he's already built.
Toronto mayoral candidate and incumbent John Tory (left) and challenger Jennifer Keesmaat.
Toronto mayoral candidate and incumbent John Tory (left) and challenger Jennifer Keesmaat.

Now that the Toronto mayoral race seems to be down to two high profile candidates — incumbent John Tory and former-chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat — it's worth considering what each has said about the city's housing market.

Housing affordability is top of mind for many voters, and both Keesmaat and Tory have addressed the issue in recent days.

Read on for a closer look at what each has said about the issue so far.

Jennifer Keesmaat

On Tuesday morning, Keesmaat held a campaign event on the rooftop of a downtown co-op building to address housing affordability in Toronto — or lack thereof.

"In the last four years, under John Tory, has housing affordability gotten better for your family? Or worse?" she said, going on to add that the city had reached a "crisis point" on the issue.

Keesmaat then proposed a plan to build 100,000 new units of purpose-built housing in the city, by using city-owned land and funding from the federal government's national housing strategy.

Earlier this year, Keesmaat was named CEO of the Creative Housing Society, an independent not-for-profit group established by Westbank founder Ian Gillespie. The group proposed the creation of 50,000 units of affordable purpose-built rental housing in Toronto and Vancouver, as part of the federal government's national housing strategy.

The plan she proposed Tuesday has similar goals, especially when it comes to the use of government land.

"Our biggest challenge is going to be accessing land, because our model doesn't work if we have to pay market prices for land," Keesmaat told TVO earlier this year, in reference to Creative Housing Society's ambitious goals.

"The role for the government here is to use an asset they've already purchased, because there's a public interest in affordable rental housing."

John Tory

In response to Keesmaat's purpose-built rental announcement, Tory's campaign issued a statement pointing out that 4,000 units of affordable housing have been approved under his watch over the past four years.

"I'm determined to do everything we can to build more affordable housing in Toronto and we need to do it much faster," wrote Tory, in a statement.

"I'm proud of the progress we have made this term approving and building affordable housing and we're just getting started," he added.

The statement also noted that, during Keesmaat's time with Creative Housing Society, no purpose-built rental buildings came to fruition.

Tory's main focus when it comes to housing has long been keeping property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation, which he reiterated at a news conference last week.

Tory maintains that a low property tax rate helps both first time buyers and existing homeowners looking to stay in their existing property. Toronto has one of the lowest property tax rates in the GTA.

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