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Housing affordability crisis a hot issue during election campaign

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As Monday’s federal election approaches, one topic that has kept real estate on the tip of politicians’ lips is housing, with each party calling the situation a national crisis.

Canadians think so too: A poll conducted in August by Leger on behalf of Re / Max Canada found that 85% of respondents believed a housing affordability crisis was underway. Rising prices (a 13% national year-over-year increase in average purchase cost according to the Canadian Real Estate Association) and average rental costs ($ 1,763 per month, per rentals .ca) contribute to this belief. achieve for many.

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Re / Max Canada Regional Vice President Elton Ash says problems cannot be resolved overnight. (Provided)

In Manitoba, as sales increased, the average purchase price of a single-family home in July 2021 was $ 377,789, with more than half of all sales occurring above the list price, statistics show the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board; registrations were down 34 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, the city’s overall rents rose 11.7% last month from August 2020, to $ 1,385, according to the rentals.ca national report.

Overall, the numbers portray the housing situation nationally and locally as increasingly unaffordable, with supply not keeping pace with demand, fueling competition for a smaller, more expensive stock of single-family homes. and rental housing available.

These are not new issues, Re / Max Canada regional vice president Elton Ash told the Free press. “It didn’t happen overnight, as much as politicians would like to believe,” said Ash, whose company is calling on the newly appointed federal government to implement a revamped national housing strategy across the board. government.

But, said Ash, this is the first time in recent memory that affordable housing has been widely referred to as a “crisis” situation in a federal election.

“In the past, this has certainly been brought up as a topic,” Ash said. “But COVID has put more emphasis on this from the perspective of Canadians.”

As a result, housing was a key issue for voters, with 79 percent of Leger poll respondents expressing concern about the state of affordable housing, 40 percent concerned about the lack of income and wage increases, and 36 percent concerned about the lack of overall supply.

Some 48% of those polled were concerned about the impact of overseas buyers, an issue that Ash said has taken too much air given the supply issues prevalent as overseas buyers make up less than 5%. of the market.

Every major political party has taken steps to address these concerns, with comprehensive platforms available on party websites.

The Liberal Party’s plan under Justin Trudeau aims to: Save first-time homebuyers about $ 30,000 through a series of credits and financial programs; increase the number of housing units by 1.4 million through the construction, repairs and conversion of an increasing number of empty office spaces; and introduce a ban on blind auctions, a temporary ban on new foreign ownership, and a “crackdown” on speculation and house overturning.

The NDP has repeatedly criticized the Liberal government’s housing strategy, saying it is “too small to make a real difference for most Canadians.” For its part, the NDP proposes the creation of 500,000 quality affordable housing units by 2031, of which 250,000 units will be completed by 2026. The party also offers dedicated quick-start funds to streamline application processes. housing finance, and encourages the construction of affordable housing by committing to waive the federal GST / HST on these projects. Meanwhile, leader Jagmeet Singh has pledged to introduce 30-year terms for CMHC-insured mortgages for first-time buyers, double the home purchase tax credit, and introduce a 20% foreign purchase tax for non-Canadian and non-permanent resident buyers.

Federal Conservatives, with new leader Erin O’Toole at the helm and constantly criticizing the Liberals, have made housing a major concern, intending to use at least 15 percent of the 37,000 properties owned by the federal government for housing.

The party is also proposing a ban on foreign investors from buying homes in Canada for a period of two years, followed by a review, and to “encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable for Canadians. “. The bulk of the plan focuses on home ownership and affordability of mortgages, including the encouragement of seven- to ten-year mortgages.

The Green Party, led by Anamie Paul, has approached affordable housing in its platform as a double homelessness crisis. The main proposals include the declaration of a national emergency on housing affordability and homelessness, followed by the establishment of a national moratorium on evictions. The party is committed to redefining affordable housing to accommodate regional variations across the country and to creating national standards for rent and vacancy controls. The Greens would also focus on Indigenous housing, expand the Rapid Housing Initiative, and invest in 50,000 supportive housing units and a minimum of 300,000 units of “deeply affordable, non-market, co-operative and non-profit housing. non-profit ”in 2031.

In every platform there are ambitious ideas, Ash said, but there are concerns that when it comes to housing, it is not being done quickly enough to address the depth of the housing affordability crisis. lodging. For example, few plans scratch the surface of the homelessness crisis, nor do they meet the housing needs of about 1.2 million immigrants to the country over the next two to three years.

Just as the issues didn’t materialize overnight, Ash said they couldn’t be resolved so quickly either.

“One challenge is that politicians tend to look at four-year windows,” he said.

Another challenge is that to tackle affordability and homelessness crises holistically and effectively requires government support and cooperation at multiple levels, which ultimately leads to developing a more appropriate housing supply.

Ash said it was not up to him or his company to approve a plan or select the best proposals; it depends on the voters. What he said was that he hoped Canadians would take the time to be informed about housing proposals if they planned to exercise their democratic right to vote.

“Canadians need something to suit today’s challenges,” he said. “The landscape is adapting, and the government should be aware of that. Canadians value the home, and whether it is rental or owner, it is a priority.

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Ben waldman


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