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Affordable Housing

Canada government budget to focus on affordable housing changes on supply, demand, regulation

The Trudeau government will take steps in Tuesday’s federal budget to make home-buying more affordable with changes affecting supply, demand and regulation, The Canadian Press has learned.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised the budget will focus on ways to help improve housing affordability for Canadians, and particularly for millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s.

The changes, along with expected measures on adult skills training, pharmacare and supporting seniors, will be included in the Liberals’ fourth and final budget before the October federal election.

The budget’s housing measures could grab a lot of attention. Polls have suggested affordable home ownership is a key concern for millennials and could be a vote winner with the increasingly critical demographic.

Morneau has heard housing-policy recommendations from numerous sources, including academic, real estate and mortgage experts, on how best to help more people buy homes.

The Trudeau government will take steps in Tuesday’s federal budget to make home-buying more affordable with changes affecting supply, demand and regulation, The Canadian Press has learned.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised the budget will focus on ways to help improve housing affordability for Canadians, and particularly for millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s.

The changes, along with expected measures on adult skills training, pharmacare and supporting seniors, will be included in the Liberals’ fourth and final budget before the October federal election.

The budget’s housing measures could grab a lot of attention. Polls have suggested affordable home ownership is a key concern for millennials and could be a vote winner with the increasingly critical demographic.

Morneau has heard housing-policy recommendations from numerous sources, including academic, real estate and mortgage experts, on how best to help more people buy homes.

The federal changes, combined with provincial and municipal guidelines, were brought in to improve the quality of mortgage debt and to lower risks to the broader economy.

READ MORE:  Kenya: Cost of land and infrastructure, barrier to affordable housing delivery

Morneau has insisted the stress tests were needed as a way to keep prices in some markets from rising at an unsustainable clip. He’s shown no signs that he’s prepared to dial them back.

There have also been industry calls for the reintroduction of insurance on 30-year amortization mortgages as a targeted way to help people at the lower end.

But Paul Kershaw, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, said many experts, himself included, have discouraged the government from weakening the stress tests or extending amortization out of fear such moves would only encourage people to borrow more.

Kershaw is the founder of Generation Squeeze, a group dedicated to informing policy decisions about the socioeconomic challenges of younger Canadians.

He wants policies that keep home prices from growing faster than earnings.

“We’ve tolerated — not only that, we’ve celebrated — home prices rising a lot over the last decade,” Kershaw said.

“And we need a government that says, ‘Nope, henceforth we want housing to be for homes first, investments second.’ ”

He recommends Ottawa change “outdated” tax policy that shelters principal residences from taxation, thus exacerbating demand, limiting supply and pushing up prices.

On regulation and enforcement, Ottawa could take steps to crack down on people who falsely claim a home is their primary residence as a way to dodge capital gains taxes.

Morneau recently vowed to do more to enforce laws in another area that’s been directly connected to housing: money laundering.

Last year, reports from an international anti-money-laundering organization and the RCMP warned that organized crime groups had bought luxury home sales in the Vancouver area to launder and hide their money.

On supply, Kershaw said the federal government could create incentives to encourage more cities to raise their housing density targets. Ottawa could offer a larger share of infrastructure transfers — like those for transit — to municipalities that agree to allow the construction of more homes to be built per plot of land.

READ MORE:  7 Lessons from New York's New Affordable Housing Design Guide

To increase demand, Kershaw said the government could bump up the maximum, one-time withdrawal limit of $25,000 under the home buyer’s plan, which enables Canadians to borrow once from their own registered retirement savings plan to buy a home.

Ottawa could also increase the non-refundable, $5,000 first time home buyers tax credit, which offers up to $750 in tax relief, he said.

Source: Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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