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Affordable housing is a priority for many voters, so how do the party platforms measure up? | CBC News

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For generations, housing has been a local or regional issue but it has now vaulted to the forefront of national politics. With the pandemic amplifying already existing trends, housing affordability has been on the minds of many voters.

In Montreal, people have taken to the streets to denounce the rising cost of housing for both renters and prospective buyers, as real estate in the area has continued to boom.

The housing crunch has driven up prices on and off the island, leaving many people feeling priced out of their neighbourhoods.

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The issue has long been associated with cities like Toronto and Vancouver, but experts say the pandemic has exacerbated the impact in other cities.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a Canadian home has gone up more than 50 per cent over the last five years.

“The big issue we’re facing is too many people for not enough homes. And that’s happening throughout the West and worldwide,” said Thomas Davidoff, director of the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.

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A man wears a cardboard house on his head during a demonstration calling for more affordable and social housing in Montreal, May 8, 2021. (Graham HughesThe Canadian Press)

He explained that the pandemic has driven a spike in demand for larger living spaces, kept interest rates low thus making mortgages more attractive and disrupted the construction of new homes.

“I believe we are in the most expensive housing market that has ever been experienced across Canada,” said David Wachsmuth, assistant professor at the McGill University School of Urban Planning.

While some politicians are keen to blame the shortage on foreign buyers, Wachsmuth says “there’s actually some dispute over how important foreign ownership is.”

Davidoff added that while foreign ownership may be driving prices up in markets like Vancouver, it’s not the case everywhere.

“We’re seeing all the parties trip over themselves to try and get rid of what foreign buying still exists in Canada, and because the existing taxes in B.C. and Ontario have gotten rid of so much demand, I think the juice has been squeezed out of that lemon,” said Davidoff.

Where do the parties stand?

Building affordable homes is in all of the major parties’ plans. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole take part in the federal election English-language Leaders debate on Sept. 9, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have committed to doubling down on the National Housing Strategy launched three years ago which now promises $70 billion in investments over 10 years.

The Liberals are also promising to:

  • Commit $1 billion in loans and grants to develop a new rent-to-own program between landlords and renters.
  • Introduce a Tax-free First Home Savings Account to allow Canadians under 40 to save up to $40,000 for their first home.
  • Invest $4 billion in a new Housing Accelerator Fund which municipalities can apply to in order to support faster housing development.

The NDP is promising to:

  • Create at least 500,000 affordable homes over 10 years.
  • Create a 20 per cent foreign buyers tax on the sale of homes to individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
  • Waive federal sales tax on the construction of new affordable rental units.

The Conservatives are promising to:

  • Implement a plan to build a million homes in the next three years.
  • Ban foreign investors not living in or moving to Canada from buying homes here for at least a two-year period.
  • Release at least 15 per cent of federally owned real estate for housing.

Do you have a question about the federal election? Send it to [email protected] or leave it in the comments. We’re answering as many as we can leading up to election day. You can read our answers to other election-related questions here.

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