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28 January 2019
With the federal election just under 10 months away, housing affordability appears destined to become a key issue, with the Liberals being the latest party to fire a shot across the opposition’s bow.
“Their front-end loading plan is a recipe to bankrupt housing providers right across the country,” Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said of the NDP’s proposal to build half a million units of affordable housing.
Last Monday, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suggested that the half-million units could be subsidized by removing the GST from the cost of their construction. While that proposal has been met with some skepticism from housing experts, Vaughan’s comments are baffling to some.
“I’m not sure what he means by bankrupted,” said Jeff Morrison, executive director with the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. “I’ve never known anyone to go bankrupt from getting money.”
However, building 50,000 units per annum without so much as a strategy seems unrealistic, says Greg Suttor, a senior researcher at the Wellesley Institute.
“That is more or less equivalent to a quarter of total production of housing by the private sector in Canada,” said Suttor.
Singh also accused the Liberals of resting on its laurels instead of solving the housing crisis, but in late 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a 10-year strategy to add up to 60,000 new affordable units and repair 240,000 existing ones.
Last week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the federal government is exploring ways to help millennial-aged Canadians become homeowners, although he did not offer additional details.
The Conservative Party has also been critical of the government’s housing policies. Last year, the Deputy Shadow Minister for Finance declared the party’s intention to make B-20 a contentious issue leading up to the Oct. 21 election.
“It will be an election issue, absolutely,” said MP Tom Kmiec, who tabled two motions last year to study B-20, both of which were rejected by the Liberals.
“This is an affordability issue. The Bank of Canada is raising interest rates, and I don’t fault them for it, but rules like B-20, and then provincial rules, are compounding and make it unaffordable for young people to get into their first home.”
By Neil Sharma
With files from The Canadian Press