Ahmed Hussen feels certain Ottawa is well-positioned to meet targets by 2024
Federal Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen says he is confident his ministry will be able to double the number of homes built in Canada in the next ten years, while being on target to meet quotas for new affordable and social housing by the time the Trudeau government’s current mandate comes up for renewal as early as 2024.
In a statement issued in early April with the Liberal government’s 2022 budget, the government said it recognized that it is becoming increasingly challenging in Canada to find a safe and affordable place to live.
An ambitious plan
An important part of the Trudeau government’s plan to boost the availability of affordable housing is a Housing Accelerator Fund, which will make $4 billion available to the country’s largest cities, facilitating their ability to accelerate their housing plans towards a target of 100,000 new mid-range homes by 2024-25.
According to the ambitious plan, the government wants to double housing construction over the next decade, with additional provisions that include a $1.5 billion investment to extend its Rapid Housing Initiative to create a minimum of 6,000 more affordable housing units across Canada.
A range of measures
As well, the government wants to help out first-home buyers by introducing the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account to allow them to save up to $40,000; by doubling the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit to $10,000; by providing up to $1,500 in direct support to home buyers; by extending the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive to end of March 2025 to allow first-time home buyers to lower their borrowing costs; and by investing $200 million to help develop and scale up rent-to-own projects across the country.
In addition to these measures, the government says it wants to curb unfair practices that have been driving up the price of housing in the last few years, by imposing a two-year ban on foreign capital coming into Canada to buy residential real estate, as well as by taking steps to make property flippers “pay their fair share.”
“We’re tackling speculation, we’re tackling foreign investment, and eventually all of those measures taken together will make a difference,” Hussen said in a phone interview with Newsfirst Multimedia. “Canadians understand that the housing sector is complex, and our tax system is also complex.
“So, we’re moving deliberately in a comprehensive manner to make sure that we’re addressing different aspects of this challenge. With that kind of approach, you begin to have an impact, because you’re not just tackling one thing – you’re tackling supply, you’re tackling speculation, you’re tackling demand, you’re tackling access, while also dealing with unfair business practices. Because we’re doing all of it, I believe it will have an impact.”
Help coming, says Hussen
Although the country’s residential real estate market still shows no signs of cooling off, Hussen said the Trudeau government remains “dead-focused on recognizing that Canadians need help to purchase their homes. They need help to access their due home-ownership and we need to take action to increase supply.
“The issue is not just about price increases,” he continued. “The issue is also just availability of housing supply. We’re taking leadership there, but we’re also been taking leadership on accessibility and fairness while cracking down on speculation and building more affordable housing. So, that’s what we’re focused on and hopefully all of those things will start to bring down prices and make housing more affordable for Canadians.”
Not meeting demand
Hussen noted that Canada currently has the fastest growing population of the G7 countries (including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the U.S.), although our supply of new housing has not kept up with the demand. “So, we have to take the initiative and do what we can to increase the housing supply in this country,” he said.
This year’s budget marked the third time since Justin Trudeau first became Prime Minister in 2015 that his government promised to provide Canadians with more affordable housing, but failed to deliver in the first two tries.
According to some real estate sector estimates, housing in Canada is now 100 per cent more costly than when Trudeau first moved into the Prime Minister’s Office, with the average price of a Canadian home now being $869,000, compared to $430,000 around seven years ago.
Following earlier pledges to impose a two-year ban on residential real estate foreign ownership, the minority Liberal government had to back off, although the government may now well be able to follow through because of a deal they struck recently with the opposition NDP, who have pledged to support Liberal government initiatives until 2024.
In the meantime, Ahmed Hussen is sounding more confident than ever that the Trudeau government will finally be able to honor its long-delayed housing promises. “It is in our budget and we will be doing everything that we can to make sure that we move ahead on these measures which we promised Canadians,” he said.