Low-income Canadians should be at the center of housing measures in the federal budget, says expert

The average price of a home in Canada has risen 20% to more than $800,000 in the past year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) — one reason housing is a hot topic ahead of Thursday’s budget.

The Liberal government is proposing several measures to ease the burden on homebuyers by spending more than $4 billion in a housing fund for new home construction, increasing the tax credit for first-time homebuyers and funds to convert empty offices into condominiums.

But low-income families are the ones facing the greatest crisis right now, said Steve Pomeroy, housing policy expert and senior fellow at Carleton University in Ottawa, and the next budget should reflect that.

“It’s not as politically appealing as saying you’re going to help first-time home buyers,” he said.

“We have increased our housing construction by 40% compared to the average of the previous 10 years. So we are already increasing this supply. So it has had no impact on moderating the rate of price increases.”

Pomeroy said it needed “targeted sourcing”.

“Increase funding for nonprofits and community organizations to create those new rental units that escape the pressures of the private market.”

Crackdown on Foreign Buyers Buying Homes in Canada

Ottawa is also promising a crackdown on foreign ownership and blind bidding, which prevents potential buyers from learning about others’ offers.

Research shows that Canada is losing affordable housing faster than it is being built as more large investors buy up the country’s rental stock.

“I think every little bit counts,” said Michael Bourque of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Although Canada is facing a housing crisis, the federal government should not move too quickly to ban foreign buyers because it could be a real boost for the economy, he said.

“So we don’t want to prevent people from coming here and participating in our society,” Bourque said. “We want to discourage the foreign buyer who simply buys an investment vehicle, leaves it empty and takes inventory of our housing supply.”

More transparency in the housing market

Meanwhile, CREA has announced a pilot project that will show real-time tracking of offers on listings.

Bourque said this is a first in Canada and will bring transparency to the housing market.

“It’s hard to know who you’re competing against. And, of course, they don’t know the price,” Bourque said. “They would have more transparency than the current process and know what the latest offer is.”

Bourque said Openn Offers is expected to begin this summer in select markets across Canada.