Party leaders and housing promises

The three leaders vying to be our next Prime Minister have made several commitments to housing. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has been keeping track of the election promises.

The Conservatives are aiming to add more than 700,000 new homeowners to Canada’s rolls by 2020 by increasing the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000, and continue the first-time home buyers’ tax credit of $750. They are also bringing in a permanent Home Renovation Tax Credit to encourage Canadians to maintain and improve the value of their homes.

The Conservatives are committed to collecting data on foreign buyer activity in Canada’s housing market, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto. If necessary, they are prepared to take action in co-ordination with provinces to curb foreign speculation in Canada’s real estate market.

Along the lines of the Liberals and their planned middle income tax cut, the Conservatives are committed to keeping more money in Canadians pockets by bringing in legislation referred to as a “tax lock” where it will prevent any increase to personal or business income tax rates, the GST, and discretionary payroll tax increases for the next four years.

The Liberals are committed to cut the middle-income tax bracket by seven per cent so that middle-income earners can put money towards things important to them such as a home. They intend to modernize the Home Buyers’ Plan by allowing more Canadians to use it when they are impacted by sudden and significant life changes. The Liberals promise to increase the new residential rental property rebate on the GST to 100 per cent. The intent is to end the penalty on developers interested in building new, modestly-priced rental properties and also provide tax incentives to increase and substantially renovate the supply of rental housing across the country.

The Liberals promise to triple federal investment in public transit over the next four years and quadruple it over the next 10 years. Like the NDP, they want to build more affordable housing  through a 10-year investment in social infrastructure. This includes building more housing units, refurbishing existing ones, renewing co-operative agreements, and providing operational support for municipalities, including renewing support for Housing First initiatives that help homeless Canadians find stable housing.

Finally, the Liberals promise to undertake a review of escalating home prices in high-priced markets like Vancouver and Toronto to determine whether speculation is driving up the cost of housing and survey the policy tools that could keep homeownership within reach for more Canadians.

The NDP have made a commitment to build 10,000 affordable housing units as well as maintain and strengthen social housing. They have a strong focus on building strong cities and communities through transferring an extra cent of the existing gas tax to municipalities. They also want to shorten commute times by partnering with cities on a better transit plan.

On the main question put to the three leaders by CREA on how the leaders intend to support Canadian homeownership, especially first-time buyers, since a cornerstone of a strong economy is a strong, stable housing market, here is an abbreviated version of their responses.

Stepehn Harper: “Our Government is a strong supporter of homeownership. We recognize that for many Canadians, owning a home represents both the achievement of a key life goal and the most important investment of their lives. We have a record of providing targeted support to first-time buyers.”

Harper noted the introduction of the $750 first-time home buyer tax credit in 2009 and increasing the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit from $20,000 to $25,000 in 2009. He also mentioned the introduction and increase in the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) provides aspiring homeowners with the most flexible savings vehicle ever offered.

Justin Trudeau: “The federal government has a key role to play in helping Canadians realize their dreams of homeownership.

“This starts with restoring a sense of confidence in the housing market. Since 2006, when 40-year mortgage insurance was introduced, we have seen this Conservative government dramatically change the rules on three separate occasions.  For home buyers — especially first-time buyers — it becomes very difficult to plan when the rules are constantly changing.

“The government of Canada should also examine existing home buyer support measures to determine if they are still fair and effective.”

Thomas Mulcair: “Housing prices are skyrocketing and 40 per cent of first-time buyers say they can’t afford to buy a home without parental help. In big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, middle-class families are being priced right out of their own housing market. The NDP plan to address affordable home ownership includes enacting legislation to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing. We will also review current programs and policies to ensure they are effective and will allow first time buyers to afford to own their first home.”