The federal election, dubbed as a “Groundhog Day Election,” came and went, dominated by a few issues, particularly affordability in the Canadian housing market. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals proposed a series of measures to cool down the Canadian real estate market. But, considering the outcome of the election and the current make-up of the House of Commons, the Grits may need to garner the support of the New Democrats, Conservatives and Green Party to see some action.
From bans to taxes, Ottawa has developed multiple tactics to curb the housing affordability crisis. Whether they are successful or not remains to be seen.
Industry observers purport that the red-hot housing sector needs two things to be doused: collaboration between all three levels of government and more supply. It is unclear if policymakers will heed their advice. It is clear, however, that post-election changes will be take place within the Canadian real estate market.
Post-Election Changes in Canadian Real Estate
On the demand side, the affordable housing platform of the minority government consists of greater incentives to improve affordability in Canada, extending more cash in the form of a Tax-Free First Home Savings Account, First-Time Home Buyer Incentive and Tax Credits, and a decrease in mortgage insurance fees.
Will these efforts be enough to ease substantial price growth? These policy prescriptions could bolster prices, but, according to many economists, they would not make housing more affordable.
Essentially, some have argued that these mechanisms push free money to those who can already afford to get their foot in the door. “The focus on demand-side policies should help a small cohort of buyers looking to get into the market soon but, ultimately, will only push up house prices in the long run,” said Stephen Brown, senior economist for Capital Economics Canada, in a research note.
Canadian officials are also facilitating slowing demand, which has already been seen in multiple housing markets across the country. These tools include an anti-flipping tax and a temporary ban on foreign buyers. The prime minister has also demanded a vacant home tax, because “houses shouldn’t sit empty when so many Canadians are trying to buy a home.”
It was recently estimated that Canada maintains approximately 1.3 million vacant homes. This ranked the fifth-highest for economies in the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
Another component of the Canadian housing sector that could face change is the regulatory process. The federal government has recommended a ban on blind bidding, enhanced price transparency, disclosure of all parties in each transaction, and legal rights to home inspections.
That said, many of these issues are managed by provincial governments, so action might require a partnership between the federal government and the provinces.
What Are the Provinces Discussing?
Some provinces are not waiting for Ottawa to act on the Canadian real estate market, with local premiers and lawmakers making their own suggestions to improve affordability or ensure greater supply for local buyers.
Premier Tim Houston will be slapping a deed transfer tax on any residential property acquired by individuals who do not pay taxes in Nova Scotia. The premier has also requested Finance Minister Alan MacMaster to implement a levy of $2 per $100 of the assessed property value of every non-provincial taxpayer owning property in Nova Scotia.
Atlantic Canada, including Nova Scotia, has witnessed a tremendous population boom throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. This has led to many out-of-province buyers scooping up homes with the equity they earned from their urban dwellings.
For professional investors, experts believe this will be the cost of doing business. However, for small-time investors, it will eat into their earnings.
The average home price in Halifax climbed a whopping 23 per cent year-over-year in September to $471,746.
Queen’s Park has proposed a new housing affordability task force amid high home prices and sales within the red-hot Ontario real estate market. One local group thinks one of the best strategies to employ is updating single-family zoning laws. Today, it is illegal to convert single-family homes into multi-unit properties in a Toronto neighbourhood, such as a townhome or a triplex.
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) calls the zoning law “archaic” and “exclusionary.”
“In too many Ontario cities, it defies common sense that you can take a bungalow and turn it into a monster four-storey home for one wealthy family, but you cannot build affordable townhomes for multiple families without red tape, runaround, and exorbitant costs,” said OREA CEO Tim Hudak in a news release. “Exclusionary zoning policies are at the heart of Ontario’s housing affordability crisis in high-growth areas and it’s time the Province steps in to modernize these archaic laws.”
Since housing development is restricted south of Lake Ontario and north of the Greenbelt, OREA purports it is critical to manage the land more effectively so more Canadians can acquire a home.
Is Relief on the Way for Canada’s Housing Market?
Fortunately for homebuyers, Canadian new home price growth slowed for the first time since 2019. Could it be the beginning of a sharp correction, or is this merely a monthly outlier that will be resuscitated over the next year? Either way, young families and first-time homebuyers will be monitoring the situation to find an opening.