The frontrunners in the race to be Toronto's next mayor faced off in a heated debate concerning the city's housing crisis on Wednesday.

Property taxes and affordable housing emerged as the major issues in the debate, which was the first to feature the six leading candidates -- Olivia Chow, Ana Bailão, Brad Bradford, Josh Matlow, Mitzie Hunter, and Mark Saunders -- on the ballot of 102.

Sponsored by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and other industry partners including STOREYS, the debate was held at George Brown College’s Waterfront Campus and was moderated by Joe Cressy, Senior Vice President of George Brown College and a former City Councillor.

When asked about the current levels of taxation on housing in Toronto, Matlow said he would raise property taxes 2% above inflation and create a "city works fund" dedicated to improving declining services and infrastructure, such as repairing roads and improving access to recreation.

Meanwhile, Bailão, Bradford, and Saunders pledged to not raise taxes above inflation. The latter two candidates took jabs at Chow in their responses, alleging that she would "jack taxes up."

"People cannot afford a 20% tax increase from Olivia Chow," Bradford said, while Saunders quipped that she was "ready to tax."

Chow's housing plan includes increasing the vacant home tax from 1% to 3%, which she said would generate millions for tenant supports and affordable housing projects.

When asked how she would ensure that said affordable housing projects are built faster, Chow said she would enforce a hard deadline for approval or refusal. Saunders vowed to "cut red tape," while Bradford promised to "remove barriers."

The debate was interrupted by a question from the crowd concerning shelter hotels, which prompted Hunter to commit to creating 400 new transitional housing beds and 2,000 supportive units with wraparound care and support. She also pledged to hire 15 new planers to expedite the approval process, and said she would address the "missing middle" by removing the land transfer tax if a home's ownership is transferred between relatives.

"We cannot evict anyone who is in the shelter hotels today without knowing where they're going to go tomorrow. That's inhumane," Matlow responded.

"We need to make sure that people in our parks, we don't go and break people's arms, and pretend we have safe indoor spaces when they tell us that they don't feel safe in our shelter system."

Bailão added that "encampments are unsafe," and expressed the need for a "housing first strategy" in the city.

In closing, each of the six candidates pledged to make affordable housing a priority if elected, and take action to fix the long-standing issue facing the city.

"Every one of us can have a right to a roof over our head," Matlow said. "We need to do better and we need to move forward with realistic plans to make sure that everyone's needs are met. Because if we're not doing that, we're not taking care of each other."

Toronto's mayoral by-election will be held on June 26.