It’s almost time to cast your ballot in Canada’s federal election, Oct. 21, if you haven’t done so already through advance polling. Affordable housing has become a hot-button issue, particularly among Torontonians who feel locked out of the real estate market because of the high price to own in the city. The main political parties have been listening, each making campaign promises to address people’s concerns. Here’s where they stand.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says he would allow people to take out 30-year mortgages, up from the current 25-year limit, for Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp. (CMHC)-backed mortgages to lower monthly payments.
He has committed to reviewing the mortgage stress test for first-time buyers and working to eliminate it altogether from mortgage renewals. The mortgage rule change that came into effect January 2018, requires prospective buyers to prove they can service an uninsured mortgage at a higher rate than they qualify for, in order to receive a loan from a federally regulated lender. The financial bar was established to protect borrowers from taking on more debt than they can handle and ensure they have some financial flexibility if rates rise.
Scheer would launch an inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector to root out corrupt practices that inflate housing prices, as well as make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing.
He has proposed a 20% green homes tax credit for up to $20,000 spent over two years to pay for energy-saving renovations. Eligible renovations would include the installation of high-quality insulation; investments in high-efficiency furnaces; replacement of doors and windows with more efficient models; upgrading of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and the installation of solar panels. Scheer says this would allow homeowners to save up to $3,800 on their renovations each year.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says he would increase the limit on purchases (total value of the mortgage plus the CMHC’s portion) for the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive to $789,000 from $480,000 in hot markets like the Greater Toronto Area. He would also loosen income qualifying restrictions, expanding the program to first-time home buyers with incomes up to $150,000 a year. Right now, the incentive is available to those who earn less than $120,000 annually.
Under the program, which was implemented in early September, the government is helping some first time buyers by advancing an interest-free loan of up to 5% of the purchase price of an existing (resale) home, and up to 10% of the cost of a new home.
Trudeau has committed to putting in place a national 1% tax on vacant residential homes that would be paid yearly by foreign property owners who don’t live in Canada.
He says he wants to build 100,000 affordable homes in the next 10 years, and help retrofit 1.5 million homes for energy efficiency by giving interested homeowners and landlords a free energy audit and offering interest-free loans up to $40,000 to make houses weather-resilient.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says he would reintroduce 30-year mortgage terms for CMHC-backed mortgages on entry-level homes for first-time buyers. He’d also double the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500 to help these same buyers with closing costs.
He has pledged to further ease access to financing by offering CMHC-backed co-ownership mortgages.
Singh says he would implement a 15% foreign buyer’s tax on the purchase of homes by people who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents to try to stymie high housing prices.
He has committed to building 500,000 affordable housing units over the next decade, with half of that done within 5 years. Until then, he proposes a rental subsidy. He also wants to scrap the federal GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units.
Singh says he would give low-interest loans for ‘green’ home upgrades like insulation, windows, heat pumps and other renewable technologies.
Green party leader Elizabeth May wants to refocus the CMHC on supporting the development of affordable, non-market and cooperative housing, as opposed to its primary activities of providing mortgage loan insurance.
May says she would legislate housing as a legally protected human right for all Canadians and permanent residents, and appoint a minister of housing to oversee the National Housing Strategy so it meets the needs of affordable housing in each province. She would like to build 25,000 new and renovate 15,000 existing affordable units every year for the next decade.
May has committed to restoring tax incentives for constructing purpose-built rental housing and providing tax credits for gifts of lands to community land trusts to provide affordable housing.
She has pledged to eliminate the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program implemented under the Liberal government.
Party leader Maxime Bernier has made no specific pledges to date.