The year 2020 was truly remarkable. It demonstrated why we have associations; to help shine a light forward when the path ahead is dark and the future is unclear. There was no playbook for the challenges and obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite it all, OREA shone. OREA’s advocacy was already in full swing by the time the pandemic struck in early March. The Trust in Real Estate Services Act (TRESA) had passed third and final reading in February and was on its way to being enacted into law.
After 10 years of advocating for higher professional standards and better consumer protections, the passing of TRESA was a historic accomplishment, but the celebration was cut short as the province went into lockdown and Ontarians were forced into isolation. Real estate transactions were halted and Realtors, home buyers and sellers were left in the lurch, not exactly sure how to proceed on closing deals.
OREA responded quickly. We convinced the province to maintain real estate as an essential service, which meant Ontario Realtors could continue to help clients who urgently needed to buy or sell property, while also moving other business to virtual or remote channels. We are very proud that throughout the pandemic Realtors across Ontario have stepped up to keep people safe by putting client and community safety first.
On the recovery from COVID-19, our lobbying secured two big successes for Realtors in the 2020 Ontario Budget – a Home Seniors Safety Tax Credit (HSSTC) and property tax relief for businesses. In the fall of 2020, we finally convinced the province to implement Personal Real Estate Corporations (PRECs) – a change that over 6,000 members are currently benefiting from.
In 2021, OREA’s lobbying priorities at Queen’s Park are laser focused on four broad priorities.
First, when it comes to Ontario’s economic recovery from COVID-19 we believe housing can be the locomotive that pulls the province out of the ditch created by the pandemic. Notably, building on our success in the 2020 Ontario budget, OREA is lobbying in support of a temporary Land Transfer Tax holiday for middle-class homes; creating opportunity zones in underprivileged communities; and expanding on the HSSTC by introducing a broad-based home renovation tax credit. These measures will boost housing supply, get people spending in our economy again and create jobs.
Second, after finally giving Realtors the ability to form PRECs, OREA is now lobbying the province to implement another round of regulations under TRESA that will increase professional standards in our sector. This round of regulation development will update the TRESA Code of Ethics, improve disclosures around multiple representation and update the abilities of the Real Estate Council of Ontario to punish those who violate the trust of consumers.
Our work on this round of regulations has just started and we are pushing the province to have new rules in place for 2022.
On housing affordability, OREA has had a number of victories in recent years, culminating with the introduction of the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, which will increase the supply of new homes in our province for generations to come. This year, we are focused on new measures to introduce badly needed supply in markets right across Ontario. In January, we released a policy report calling on Queen’s Park to take action to build more homes in non-urban markets. We are also prioritizing investments in broadband internet, which is badly needed in many rural and Northern communities. We are releasing a report later in the year that will discuss the need for more investment in infrastructure like broadband internet.
Finally, as the largest provincial trade association in Canada, OREA is committed to using our voice to champion efforts to fight racial inequality and promote more diversity in real estate. To that end, OREA has struck a Presidential Advisory Group (PAG) chaired by Realtor Davelle Morrison.
The PAG is working this year to develop an action plan to eliminate racism and promote inclusion in the real estate profession. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the PAG is undertaking likely the largest and most comprehensive research effort into racism and diversity in housing and real estate in Ontario’s history. It will reach out to consumers, Realtors, BIPOC organizations, LGBTQ2+ groups and academics to identify issues, opportunities and areas for public policy reform that will get included in our action plan. It is exciting work, and we are proud that your association has taken a leadership role in this critical area.
As we begin to emerge from this pandemic, we want our members to know that OREA’s advocacy is focused on supporting their success by fighting to maintain a strong real estate market that’s underpinned by affordable home ownership for all Ontarians.
Advocacy works best when we work together with our 37 member boards on advancing our members’ priorities at Queen’s Park and at the local level, so that is what we will continue to do this year.
Our priorities this year are ambitious, but we have the team of volunteers and leaders to get it done.