You’ve probably noticed over the last several years that home prices (if you’ll excuse the pun) have gone through the roof. For years now homeowners have regularly received flyers in the mailbox asking if they want to sell their house with the promise of a deluge of offers and a “higher than listed” purchase price. Although this trend is a relatively new phenomenon, it has quickly become the norm in today’s housing market. While this may be terrific for the homeowner looking to downsize or just free up some capital, it presents some significant obstacles for those first-time buyers looking to reach one of life’s most significant and rewarding milestones.
The average price of a home in Windsor-Essex has increased approximately 45% from this time last year. Even after adjusting for inflation, this is an astonishing figure. It should come as no surprise that such a dramatic rise in cost is overwhelmingly a supply vs. demand issue and if we’re going to see a change in this trend, the simple solution is obvious: increase supply. However, this is no easy task. Building a home requires skill and experience, tools and time. Perhaps most importantly, it requires land and materials, but even if all these elements were in place, there are still significant hurdles to overcome before breaking ground.
Municipalities across the province have been experiencing the same struggle, but how has our leadership responded? Of course, we can’t predict the future, but part of the role of our city planners and civil engineers is to examine existing trends and prepare future development accordingly. New subdivisions need road access and utilities. We must be proactive in assessing the limitations of our existing infrastructure so that improvement and expansion is already taking place in order to meet housing needs. Much of this responsibility falls on provincial leadership to not only maintain an appropriate relationship with utility and development companies, but also to evaluate impediments and restrictions in the development approval process. Government “red tape” is an unfortunate reality, but if our leaders fail to constantly evaluate existing policies in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency, then those policies will ultimately become prohibitive and will stifle progress.
Our local responsibilities to encourage an increase in supply requires a little more thinking outside the proverbial box. True, our houses are getting more and more expensive, but have you noticed that they’re also getting bigger? For a new couple or young family with minimal savings, student loan debt and a limited credit history, perhaps a four bedroom with a finished basement and 2.5 car garage isn’t the best choice of starter home. But if that’s all we’re building, how can they get started? It’s up to local municipalities to vary their development strategies with more options like smaller lot sizes and multi unit dwellings. Additionally, the trend toward “tiny home” living is gaining significant attention all over the world. Many existing homeowners have converted their basement and garage attic into apartments. Home additions and even additional dwelling units (ADUs) on existing properties are great ways to not only increase supply, but potentially generate income.
Currently, house prices are ridiculous, and there’s no indication (yet) that they’ll come down any time soon. So where do we go? Are government handouts the solution? Certainly not. But tax incentives might be. Mitigating student debt could help. Encouraging more skilled individuals into the work force to build more homes would increase supply over time. And yes, maybe slight adjustments to our paradigm so that more people will consider tiny home living or a “mother-in-law suite” could also help. The point is, this problem is a complicated one, and solving it will require a creative and multi-faceted approach and that solution must come from the ground up. That is, if the goal is to benefit individual families and community members, then that’s where it must start, in our own communities. Every level of government exists for the same ultimate purpose: to represent the needs and values of others. People must get involved in their communities and local government so that their needs and values are heard and understood. From there, it’s the responsibility of government to implement policy that facilitates the pursuit of those values. And the Ontario Party is the one to achieve that.
Thank you for reading.
Frank Causarano, Essex Riding Candidat