canada housing plan

Feds lays out plan with aim to solve Canada's national housing crisis

For many young Canadians, the dream of owning a home has seemed impossible amid the national housing and supply crisis. However, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities of Canada Sean Fraser is attempting to ease anxieties with a plan to restore affordability to the housing market.

In an announcement on Friday, Fraser shared his ambitious plan to build more homes in Canada and his intent to "solve the housing crisis." This comes just a week before the federal government unveils the 2024 budget.

Fraser said he is attempting to instill more hope in Canadians who have come to believe homeownership is just a pipe dream.

His ministry proposed to meet Canadians' demands by breaking it down into three solutions:

  • To build more homes to cure the supply gap,
  • To make it easier to rent or to buy a home,
  • And to make sure the government is helping people who can't afford a home.

"I'm not going to promise you that the problem that was decades in the making will be solved overnight. But I think in the medium term, we're going to be able to build homes that will secure the supply gap. And we're going to be able to put policies in the place that make it easier to rent or to buy a place," he explained.

"I believe we can build a Canada where you can find a place to live on 30 per cent of your income. I think we can create that opportunity for people at different levels of the income spectrum," he added.

Immigration levels impacting housing

Fraser said Canada is building enough homes to accommodate the population growth it's seeing from permanent residency streams, but the minister pointed out that challenges lie in temporary residency.

Recently, the federal government implemented a cap on international student visas to tackle the housing crisis and limit the number of hours these students can work off-campus.

While Fraser stresses the conversation isn't about blaming newcomers for Canada's housing challenges, international students have been critical of the government as it continues to bear the brunt of policy changes.

"The challenges around the housing crisis are attributable to a whole range of factors," Fraser said. However, he said until schools can provide enough housing, "we've got to put a cap in and allow provinces to set allocations amongst institutions in order to ensure that communities are not receiving more people through the program than they can provide adequate housing for."

Unlike permanent residency programs, the federal government does not set the limit for temporary immigration programs.

Newcomers with particular skills may find more luck coming to Canada as the federal government plans to upgrade immigration programs.

The plan reads, "We will also prioritize newcomers through our immigration programs who have the skills to build more homes and invest in training so more Canadians can help build more homes in their communities and across the country."

According to the ministry, the 2024 budget will propose $50 million to streamline foreign credential recognition, with a focus on residential construction to help skilled trades workers build more homes.

In addition, the government is encouraging more people to pursue a career in the skilled trades.

"Specifically, Budget 2024 will propose to invest $10 million in the Skilled Trades Awareness and Readiness program to encourage high school students to enter the skilled trades, and an additional $90 million for the Apprenticeship Service, creating apprenticeship opportunities to train and recruit the next generation of skilled trades workers."

Removal of GST expands to "get builders building"

In order to "get builders building," the federal government has created incentives like removing federal GST from the construction cost of new secured rental housing. In addition to this, the minister of housing is proposing to expand this measure to remove the GST for student residences built by public universities, public colleges, and public school authorities.

"This change will apply to new student residences that begin construction on or after September 14, 2023, and before 2031, so long as they complete construction before 2036," the ministry said.

In addition, the 2024 budget will propose another $15 billion in loans for the Apartment Construction Loan Program to build a minimum of 30,000 new rental apartments.

"Access to low-cost loans helps get projects off the shelf and shovels in the ground. The federal government's Apartment Construction Loan Program boosts the construction of rental housing by providing low-cost repayable loans to builders and developers," a statement reads. "Since 2017, the program has supported over 48,000 new rental homes and is on track to support over 101,000 new homes by 2031-32."

The ministry said it will also create the next generation of Canada's rental stock by introducing a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance tax measure, which will be proposed in the 2024 budget.

"Increasing the capital cost allowance rate from four per cent to 10 per cent will incentivize builders to get more projects moving by increasing their after-tax return on investment," the ministry added.

Rent or own?

There are countless reasons why Canadians may believe renting or homeownership is the best path for them. So, despite being an owner or renter, the ministry aims to "restore the prospect of home ownership and create a healthy rental sector in Canada."

To protect renters, Budget 2024 will propose a new $15 million Tenant Protection Fund to provide funding to legal services and tenants' rights advocacy organizations to better protect tenants against unfairly rising rent payments, renovictions, or bad landlords.

Considering Canadians who are renting cannot currently use their rental payment history to show their "creditworthiness," the ministry said in the 2024 budget, the government will propose to amend the Mortgage Charter.

This will call on fintech companies, credit bureaus, and lenders "to build the ecosystem that will give renters the option to include their rental payment history in their credit scores, helping renters qualify for a mortgage and better rates."

The government also plans to create a Canadian Renters' Bill of Rights and extend the ban on foreign homebuyers until January 1, 2027.

Short-term rentals

Recently, BC made sweeping changes to the short-term rental market and Fraser said the ministry is looking to support communities who have made that decision to put a limit.

"We've made a decision to say if a municipality has decided to restrict Airbnbs and an operator is not following the rules that a community has established, they'll be denied the tax advantages that a business owner can run, if they're running a business contrary to the local rules," Fraser said. "We're also putting $50 million on the table to help communities enforce the rules that they put in place to address short-term rentals."

We asked if the federal government is considering implementing a national crackdown on short-term rentals, but Fraser said it is leaving the decision up to communities.

"Dynamics will differ between communities and within the same community at different periods of time," Fraser said. "We're going to provide support to those communities who make a decision to restrict them."

New hope for the next generation?

Fraser admitted people could be skeptical about the plan aiming to "solve the housing crisis." Adding, "I'm asking you to believe in the plan that I'm putting forward with concrete proposals that I think are going to make a difference."

"I believe sincerely that this plan is going to help restore affordability to the housing market," he said, but emphasized other levels of government need to participate as well.

"We're going to do everything we can that's within our area of control. And we're going to do everything we can to incentivize others to do what's in their area of control," he added.

"If we all work together… we can solve this problem and restore affordability so the next generation of Canadians has the same access to the opportunities that their parents did."

The federal 2024 budget will be presented on April 16.

Lead photo by

Blair Gordon Main/Shutterstock


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