Could finding an affordable place to live be THE election issue of 2018?

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Could finding an affordable place to live be THE election issue of 2018?

An affordable place to call home could very well be the issue of Ontario's upcoming provincial election, a summit on housing heard in Toronto Tuesday.

A new Ipsos poll of 2,000 Ontarians found 86 per cent of people in the province want to hear from the major parties about how they plan to improve the province's housing situation.

"They want all three political parties to put a plan in their platforms for affordable home ownership and rentals," said Tim Hudak, the CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA)  — the organization that commissioned the survey, along with the Ontario Home Builders' Association and the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario.

The findings were released as more than 100 local builders, developers, policy makers and government officials met in downtown Toronto Tuesday at the first summit on housing OREA has ever hosted.

Several in the audience grilled Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa during a lunchtime question-and-answer session with concerns about a "pile-on of policy."

The Wynne government announced its Fair Housing Plan in April, aimed at cooling Ontario's red-hot markets, both housing and rental. Among the 16 measures were a 15 per cent foreign buyers' tax and rent control expansion to all units built after 1991..

Sousa, a father of three millennials, said his government heard the concerns of young people struggling to break into the housing market or even just cover their monthly rent.

But he also said the government wants to find a balance between that demand for affordable housing and keeping up with supply.

"Some say it wasn't enough; others say it was too much," said Sousa.

"There's no silver bullet."

Supply, supply, supply

The summit, which included a panel discussion called Generation Screwed: Millennials and Home Ownership, put much of the spotlight on supply.

"Getting more housing and more housing choices on the market, that's going to be the solution in helping making sure that a millennial woman who got a job and is now looking for house, that she can find a place to go," said Hudak.

Home sales actually slowed in the GTA, after the government unveiled its housing strategy, though prices continued to rise. Experts seem to agree it's too early to tell if the dip in sales is tied to the policy change.

"There's been a bit of air coming out of the market right now, but that's not going to last. Demand is going to come roaring back, so the sooner we get going on supply, the better," Hudak said.

Not just supply, but the 'right supply'

But it's not just any supply that's needed, it's the right kind, according to Cherise Burda, the executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute.

"As young people who are faced with buying a small condo, that's fine in the short term. Where are they going to move in next?" Burda said.

"We are still building houses two hours away, but that shouldn't be the only option for families."

Burda says ahead of the election, voters should be watching for how provincial candidates talk about building complete communities, with mixed housing options for both young families and empty nesters.

"If we aren't building the right supply, then we can put ourselves in a situation where affordability gets worse," she said.

"You'll have more and more pressure on a diminishing proportion of family friendly housing, so the prices for that go up even further."