It’s been a major focus of the political parties in this election campaign, as many British Columbians who can’t afford high rents or have enough money to purchase a home think it should be.
In fact, Canada has the fastest growing house prices of all G7 countries and rents have risen on average between 3.4 per cent and 4.2 per cent annually in B.C.’s four largest urban regions.
So where does each party stand on, say, building more homes? Or allowing foreign buyers to buy properties in Canada? Or mortgages?
The following is a snapshot of what the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP are proposing in their housing platforms, with voters to decide Sept. 20 which party best represents their interests.
The Green Party of Canada had not released a housing platform prior to the posting of this story, although in 2019 the party promised to build 25,000 new affordable housing units and refurbish 15,000 more annually over 10 years.
• Build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes in four years.
• Commit $1 billion in loans and grants to develop and scale up rent-to-own projects with private sector, non-profits and co-ops.
• Allow Canadians under 40 years old to save up to $40,000 in what is being called a “tax-free first home savings account” and use the money to purchase a first home.
• Double the “first-time home buyers tax credit” from $5,000 to $10,000.
• Reduce the price charged by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on mortgage insurance by 25 per cent for new buyers.
• Invest $4 billion in a “housing accelerator fund” to grow annual housing supply in the country’s largest cities, creating a target of 100,000 new “middle-class homes” by 2024-2025. “This application-based fund will offer support to municipalities that grow housing supply faster than their historical average, reduce approval times, help establish inclusionary zoning bylaws and encourage transit-oriented development,” according to the Liberals’ platform.
• Increase funding to the National Housing Co-Investment Fund by $2.7 billion over four years to help affordable housing providers acquire land and buildings to build and preserve more units.
• Double the 2021 budget commitment to $600 million to support the conversion of empty office and retail space into market-based housing, including space owned by the federal government.
• Introduce a “multigenerational home renovation tax credit” for families who want to add a secondary unit to their home for an immediate or extend family member to live. Families will be able to claim a 15 per cent tax credit up to $50,000 in renovation and construction costs.
• Work with Indigenous “partners” to co-develop an “urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy to ensure more Indigenous people have access to safe and affordable housing, and will support this strategy with dedicated investments.”
• Move forward with a $567 million investment — in addition to $2.2 billion previously committed — to achieve goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent by 2027.
• Temporarily ban foreign ownership in Canadian housing for next two years, unless purchase is confirmed to be for future employment or immigration in the next two years.
• Implement a national tax on non-resident, non-Canadian owners of vacant, underused housing and foreign-owned vacant land in large urban areas.
• Review the tax treatment of large corporate owners of residential properties such as real estate investment trusts that are increasingly trying to amass large portfolios of Canadian rental housing. “Homes should be to live in, not a financial asset for investment funds to speculate on,” the Liberals say.
• Establish the “Canada financial crime agency,” which would be the country’s first-ever national law enforcement agency dedicated to investigating and combating all forms of major financial crime, including the presence of money laundering in the housing market.
• Establish an “anti-flipping tax” on residential properties, requiring properties to be held for at least 12 months.
• Introduce a “homebuyers’ bill of rights” that will include banning “blind bidding,” which prevents bidders from knowing the bids of other prospective buyers, and ultimately drives up home prices.
• Build one million homes in the next three years.
• Leverage federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply, including requiring municipalities receiving federal money for public transit to increase density near the funded transit.
• Use at least 15 per cent of the federal government’s 37,000 buildings for housing.
• Encourage Canadians to invest in rental housing by extending the ability to defer capital gains tax when selling a rental property and reinvest it in rental housing.
• Explore converting unneeded office space to housing.
• Create a “for Indigenous, by Indigenous” housing strategy.
• Create incentives for corporations and developers to donate property to community land trusts for the development of affordable housing.
• Encourage a new market in seven-to-10-year mortgages “to provide stability both for the first-time home buyers and lenders,” which would reduce the need for mortgage stress tests, according to the Conservatives’ platform.
• Fix the mortgage stress test to stop “discriminating” against small business owners, contractors and other non-permanent employees, including casual workers.
• Never tax Canadians’ capital gains on the sale of a principal residence.
• Increase the limit on eligibility for mortgage insurance and index it to home price inflation.
• Implement recommendations at the federal level from the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia.
• Give police and prosecutors the tools necessary to identify, halt and prosecute money laundering in the Canadian real estate market.
• Ban foreign investors not living or moving to Canada from buying homes for two years.
• Encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable to Canadians.
• Implement the “housing first” approach to reducing homelessness, including investing $325 million over three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 “recovery community centres” across the country.
• Create at least 500,000 units of “quality, affordable housing” over the next decade, with half of the homes built within five years.
• Set up dedicated “fast-start funds” to streamline the application process and help communities “get the expertise and assistance they need to get projects off the ground now, not years from now,” according to the NDP platform.
• Increase the number of affordable homes by waiving the federal portion of the GST/HST on construction of new affordable rental units.
• Re-introduce 30-year terms to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation-insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first-time buyers, allowing for smaller monthly payments.
• Double the homebuyers’ tax credit to $1,500.
• Provide resources to facilitate co-housing, including co-ownership agreements and easing access to financing via CMHC-backed co-ownership mortgages.
• Place a 20 per cent foreign buyers’ tax on the sale of homes to non-Canadians and non-permanent residents.
• Create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency about who owns properties and require reporting of suspicious transactions to help find and stop money laundering.
Note: An in-depth look at the Liberals' national housing strategy — announced in 2017 — and whether it benefited B.C. can be read here.