A new home renovation tax credit and the creation of a national housing strategy are among the platform promises that Canada’s political parties have made leading up to federal election day on October 19th.
While the four major parties — Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Green — each have their own policies and targets, all have platforms that, if delivered, would impact Canada’s housing market.
Based off online platforms and interviews with candidates from local ridings, BuzzBuzzHome News has outlined how the major parties’ address housing-market issues from affordability to investment.
The Conservative Party of Canada is the only major party without a national housing strategy. Nonetheless, the Tories set a goal of adding 700,000 new homeowners over the next four years, and have a number of proposed policies that would directly affect the real estate market.
The Conservatives intend to create a permanent Home Renovation Tax, modelled on a temporary measure the party introduced in 2009, in time for January 2017. The credit would be applicable to home-renovation expenses that cost between $1,000 and $5,000 and could result in individual savings of up to $600.
Harper’s Conservatives would tweak the Home Buyers’ Plan. Currently, the federal program lets first-time home buyers take out as much as $25,000 annually from their registered retirement savings plans to purchase or build a home. The Tories would increase the maximum withdrawal to $35,000 in a calendar year.
Conservatives say they “will compile comprehensive data on the acquisition of Canadian real estate by foreign non-residents and temporary residents.” Recently, HSBC called on the Canadian government to start tracking foreign home purchases. The lender noted these transactions could be inflating the value of homes in Canada’s hottest real estate markets, Vancouver and Toronto.
Depending on the findings, the Conservatives would work with the provinces to take “appropriate action.” The platform notes that in Australia, restrictions apply to foreign buyers purchasing existing homes as investments.
Laura-Leah Shaw, a party candidate in British Columbia running in the Stevenson — Richmond East riding, said the Greens would encourage developers to build more affordable housing units. “You can encourage it to be built,” she told BuzzBuzzHome News in a phone interview. “You just have to make the carrot big enough to the developer, and money is the carrot.” Shaw added this money could come in the form of a tax credit.
The Greens’ Canada-wide strategy would work in conjunction with provinces and municipalities, added Shaw, who has been in the real estate business for close to 30 years, mostly as a sales rep.
On the topic of investment — particularly foreign — Shaw said, “I would encourage the Green Party to look at taxing the profits that are made by any investor that’s picking up a house and selling it in four months,” adding, “We think (investors) should be paying something on this profit that you’ve just made.”
The strategy would include tax incentives amounting to $125 million annually for the purpose of bolstering the amount of rental housing in Canada, as well as renovating the current supply. In addition to tax breaks, the party said in its online platform that it would finance the construction of new affordable rental housing. The Liberals would also look to current federal properties for possible sites of future affordable housing for areas in need.
Outside of affordable housing, the Liberals have pledged to “modernize” the Home Buyers’ Plan by no longer limiting its availability to first-time buyers. Under a Liberal government, Canadians “impacted by sudden and significant life changes” could qualify for the plan. These changes include job locations, the death of a spouse, divorce, or even the decision to take in an elderly relative.
The Grits vow to look into rising home prices in expensive markets, such as Toronto and Vancouver. Upon review, the party would “consider all policy tools that could keep homeownership within reach for more Canadians.”
New Democratic Party
“When we’re talking about a housing strategy, we’re not talking about something that’s top down,” said NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, who has also been the party’s housing critic, on the NDP’s proposed national policy.
The NDP’s national housing strategy would be a collaboration between all levels of government, explained Boutin-Sweet, and would be made up of “general rules,” such as making sure a city’s vacancy rate never dips below 3 per cent, or a right to housing mandate. “It should be flexible in different regions to really answer the needs in that specific region,” said Boutin-Sweet, who represents Quebec’s Hochelaga electoral district, of the platform policy. “Provinces can decide for themselves how they want to solve a problem.”
In its platform, the NDP has also promised to create 10,000 affordable housing units.
Boutin-Sweet said the NDP would like to work with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “Originally, CMHC was supposed to be there to help people find affordable housing after the Second World War, and its original mandate has been changed quite a bit,” she said, noting it’s become more insurance and title-focused. “I think refocusing it on its original mandate, then, would help with the construction of new housing.”