With Toronto's mayoral by-election less than a month away, all eyes are on front-runners Olivia Chow, Josh Matlow, Brad Bradford, Ana Bailão, Mitzie Hunter, and Mark Saunders. As was the case with October’s election, which saw John Tory secure a third term as mayor, housing has remained a major point of focus this time around and candidates have wasted no time in proposing new solutions to the chronic problems facing Toronto.

From upping the Vacant Home Tax to tapping into “missing middle” housing to establishing as-of-right zoning, here’s what the top candidates have had to say about housing so far.

Olivia Chow

Since launching her campaign in mid-April, former city councillor, member of parliament, and school board trustee Olivia Chow has maintained a firm lead in early polling with her renter-centric platform. In a recent interview with STOREYS, Chow said, “The survival of a great city depends on how well we take care of each other, and you can’t do any of it without people having a roof over their heads.”

As such, Chow has proposed raising the new Vacant Home Tax to 3% and using those funds collected to construct affordable and subsided units alongside condominiums across the city, and support the City’s existing affordable housing initiatives, including rent supplements. She hopes to double the reach of Toronto’s rent bank to help 5,500 people each year and nearly triple the reach of the Eviction Prevention in the Community program.

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Chow has also spoken about creating a Toronto Renters Action Committee: a task force dedicated to establishing anti-renoviction bylaws, advocating for real rent control, and reviewing existing policies and programs related to renters.

As well, Chow has vowed to build 25,000 rent-controlled homes over the next eight years on City-owned land, including at least 7,500 affordable units and at least 2,500 rent-geared-to-income units.

In the coming weeks, Chow has said that we can expect to hear more from her with respect to “the density question.” More specifically, she has touched on her support of building up density on main streets and along transit corridors.

Read more on Olivia Chow's campaign here.

Josh Matlow

Current City Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul) kickstarted his campaign in March with a controversial plan to raise property taxes by 2%. The funds, he has said, will be used to create a new City Works Fund, keep warming centres open, and repair roads and sidewalks, amongst more.

In addition, Matlow has proposed the creation of Public Build Toronto with the hopes of generating 8,250 rent-controlled market apartments and 6,750 affordable apartments, including 750 deeply affordable units for Torontonians on very low or fixed incomes. He has also proposed allowances for up to three rental units to be added to existing homes.

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More recently, in proposing the approval of nine-storey buildings as-of-right on designated avenues around the city, Matlow has also stated that he will establish a dedicated team of City lawyers, architects, and planners to speed up applications related to the addition of rental units to existing homes. He also plans to fast-track development applications that “provide meaningful community benefits, such as affordable housing.”

To improve apartment affordability, Matlow has spoken of putting $50M towards the purchase of affordable apartment buildings that are “under threat” with the end goal of handing off such buildings to non-profit operators.

Read more on Josh Matlow's campaign here.

Brad Bradford

Current City Councillor Brad Bradford (Ward 19, Beaches-East York), who also serves as the Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, has said that he will get more affordable housing built by streamlining approvals, reducing red tape, and tapping into “missing middle” housing.

His plan calls for ramping up adaptive reuse, and more specifically, as-of-right approvals for office conversions, a move meant to help expedite the rezoning process.

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Bradford has also promised to accelerate Toronto’s Housing Now initiative, which involves building housing on City-owned land and dedicating one-third of that housing as affordable.

With respect to property taxes, Bradford has vowed to keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation, saying that raising taxes would be the “wrong approach.”

“Families are struggling to make ends meet and I am going to help them,” said Bradford. “Torontonians are being asked to do more with less in this cost of living crisis in an effort to stretch a dollar further. There is no reason why the same principle should not apply to the government at City Hall.”

Read more on Brad Bradford's campaign here.

Ana Bailão

Long-time affordable housing advocate and former Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão announced that she was running to be Toronto’s next mayor in March. At that time, she said in a tweet, “I’m running with a plan to fix our city’s services, build housing, and make life more affordable.”

Bailão later unveiled her $48.5M housing plan, in which she pledges to build 285,000 homes by 2031, 20% of which would be purpose-built rentals.

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Her plans also speak to the creation of new modular supportive homes for those struggling with homelessness, rental assistance for women and gender-diverse people escaping domestic violence, stronger eviction prevention programs, and fast-tracking the construction of Housing Now projects.

She also hopes to temporarily freeze new development proposals that threaten rental apartment buildings -- a move meant to give the City an opportunity to conduct “a comprehensive city-wide review to provide greater predictability.”

As well, Bailão is promising to “champion reforms to planning regulations, zoning, and land use," particularly as it pertains to “missing middle” housing.

Read more on Ana Bailão's campaign here.

Mitzie Hunter

Formerly Chief Administrative Officer of Toronto Housing and Head of CivicAction, Mitzie Hunter has issued a five-point plan “to deliver more new affordable housing, more quickly,” which extends to include unlocking public lands for new affordable housing, encouraging more multiplex housing, adding rental apartments on major streets near campuses, speeding up building approvals and construction, and protecting renters with programs like a Tenant Advocate.

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A key element of her plan also involves the creation of a new Toronto Affordable Housing Corporation (TAHC). Through TAHC, Hunter has pledged to deliver nearly 22,700 units in six years' time -- around two-thirds of which would be rented at a below-market rate -- providing provide housing for approximately 53,650 people.

In addition, Hunter has said she plans to dedicate 6,136 units to a “shared equity” model, which would allow homeowners to split the purchase price of said units -- as well as the equity -- with TAHC.

As well, Hunter has said that she’s all for building up “missing middle” housing in Toronto, including Montreal-style multiplexes, particularly in neighbourhoods typically reserved for single-family homes.

Read more on Mitzie Hunter's campaign here.

Mark Saunders

Former Chief of Police Mark Saunders has promised to expedite the approval process for residential construction, cutting approval times down to one year so that new projects can get off the ground faster.

Also to that end, Saunders has touched on introducing a project tracking system to hold builders and the City accountable and digitizing the planning and approvals system.

"At the current rate of new affordable home starts, it will take another 45 years for Council to reach its 10-year goal of 40,000 units,” he has said. “It's clear City Hall is the first big barrier to getting home built quickly; so I pledge to use every tool and option at my disposal, including strong mayor powers, to tackle this issue if we don’t get moving on day one.”

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In addition, Saunders hopes to pursue the Toronto Community Housing model where City land is provided to builders in return for including affordable and supportive housing. He also hopes to incentivize opportunities to purchase underused commercial buildings with the potential to be converted into shelters or supportive housing.

Finally, Saunders has made mention of a federal “last-mile” grant program meant to help cover the cost of building purpose-built rental projects in the city -- particularly in cases where loans and rents from affordable or supportive units may not cover the full cost of the project.

Read more on Mark Saunders' campaign here.

Toronto’s mayoral by-election is slated for Monday, June 26, 2023. Advanced polling will be held from June 8 to 13.