Posted on August 30, 2021
The Federal election is a few days out. An issue that all parties are claiming they will address, if elected, is affordable housing! This brief lays out ACORN Canada’s Housing Platform as well as lists what the three main political parties - Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP - have to offer for renters and homeowners.
ACORN’s Housing Platform
ACORN Canada is an independent national organization of low-and-moderate income families with 140,000+ members in 20+ neighbourhood chapters across 9 cities. Most of our members are low-to-moderate income tenants who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
ACORN members are calling on all the parties to do more to build and protect affordable housing.
More specifically, ACORN members are demanding the following:
1. Protecting existing affordable housing
i. Federal funds should be used to protect housing and not destroy affordable housing by gentrifying affordable housing and renovicting / demovicting sitting tenants. In particular, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and big corporate landlords are eroding Canada’s affordable rental housing by buying up affordable housing, neglecting capital repairs and pushing out tenants so that they can raise the rent. Yet, governments are incentivizing billionaire landlords like CAPREIT, Hazelview, Starlight, Killam and many others to raise our rents and make us live in substandard conditions.
- CMHC - the federal housing agency - needs to put affordable housing preservation conditions on all financing agreements with developers.
- Immediately end the tax exemptions given to REITs by closing the tax loophole in the Income Tax Act.
- Create a national non-profit acquisition strategy by funding and giving non-profits and co-operatives the right of first refusal on all apartment building sales and providing them with capacity building resources to participate in the market.
ii. Immediately mandate full rent control in all provinces. Although not traditionally in the federal government's jurisdiction, the federal government has the power to do this and they should use it to protect and promote the right to housing.
iii. Create a rent relief fund so that people falling through the cracks are not evicted for not being able to pay rent.
2. Build new and deeply affordable housing
i. Build a minimum of 1.2 million units of affordable housing in the next decade.
ii. The federal housing initiatives must target people in core housing need. The affordable housing programs delivered through the CMHC must ensure that any money given to developers is contingent on these conditions:
- it targets people with household income between $10,000 and $30,000/ year; and
- housing is kept affordable for perpetuity (not 10-21 years as is currently done).
Housing Platform of the NDP
- Create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years,
- To kick-start the construction of co-ops, social and non-profit housing and break the logjam to access housing funding, set up dedicated fast-start funds. Mobilize federal resources and lands for these projects.
- Spur the construction of affordable homes by waiving the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units.
- Support the creation of more social housing and other affordable options.
- Tighten CMHC insured-lending rules to prevent REITs and large capital funds from renovicting tenants.
- Set up an acquisition fund to support non-profits in acquiring existing rental properties that go on the market and are at risk of being scooped up by REITs.
- Close tax loopholes and investigate the taxation structure of REITs.
- Provide up to $5,000 in immediate rental support to Canadians in housing need.
- A $1B increase in federal transfers to the Canada Housing Benefit.
- A GST credit on all new constructions that meet strict affordability standards.
- Re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first time home buyers.
- To help put an end to speculation that’s fuelling high housing prices, put in place a 20% Foreign Buyer’s tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
- To fight money laundering, work with the provinces to create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency and reporting.
Housing Platform of the Liberal Party
- Stop “renovictions” by deterring unfair rent increases that fall outside of a normal change in rent.
- Stop excessive profits in the financialization of housing by reviewing tax treatment of large corporate owners and speculators trying to amass rental housing, and putting in place policies to curb excessive profits.
- Help renters become owners by committing $1 billion in loans and grants to develop and scale-up rent-to-own projects with private, not-for-profit, and co-op partners, in 5 years or less.
Renters/Owners - Mixed
Build, preserve, or repair 1.4 million homes in the next four years. Do this by:
- Permanently increase funding to the National Housing Co-investment fund by a total of $2.7 billion over 4 years. These extra funds will be dedicated to helping affordable housing providers acquire land and buildings to build and preserve more units, extending the model of co-operative housing to new communities, accelerating critical repairs so that housing supply remains affordable.
- Crack down on speculation and house flipping - anti-flipping tax on residential properties, requiring properties to be held for at least 12 months.
- Ban new foreign ownership of houses for two years. Also, expand the upcoming tax on vacant housing owned by non-resident, non-Canadians to include foreign-owned vacant land within large urban areas.
- Strengthen federal oversight of the housing market by establishing “Canada Financial Crimes Agency” to investigate/combat major financial crime, including money laundering in the housing market.
- Give cities the tools to speed up housing construction through a Housing Accelerator Fund, which will make $4 billion available to large cities to accelerate their housing plans. Target: 100,000 new middle-class homes by 2024-25.
- Help cities enforce use it or lose it: core urban land should be available for new housing, not held vacant by speculators.
- Convert empty office space into housing. Double existing commitment to $600 million to support the conversion of empty office and retail space to market-based housing.
- Tax-free First Home Savings Account, for Canadians under 40 to save up to $40,000 toward their first home, and withdraw it tax-free toward their purchase.
- Make the First Time Home Buyer Incentive more flexible to give Canadians the option of a deferred mortgage loan,
- Introduce a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights that will ban blind bidding; establish a legal right to a home inspection; ensure total price transparency on the history of recent house sale prices; require real estate agents to disclose to all participants in a transaction; provide publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry; ensure banks and lenders offer mortgage deferrals for up to 6 months in the event of job loss or other major life event; and require mortgage lenders to fully inform buyers of the full range of financing choices and programs available.
Housing Platform of the Conservatives
- Enhance the viability of using Community Land Trusts for affordable housing by creating an incentive for corporations and private landowners to donate to them.
Renters/Owners - Mixed
Implement a plan to build 1 million homes in the next three years:
Leverage federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply.
- Require municipalities receiving federal funding for public transit to increase density near the funded transit.
- Release at least 15% of the federal owned lands for housing.
- Incent developers to build the housing Canadians both want and need, by encouraging Canadians to invest in rental housing by enhancing capital gains tax when selling a rental property and reinvesting in rental housing.
- Explore converting unneeded office space to housing.
Ban foreign investors not living in or moving to Canada from buying homes here for a two year period. Instead, encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable to Canadians.
To make mortgages more affordable:
- Encourage a new market in seven-to-ten year mortgages to provide stability both for first-time home buyers and lenders.
- Remove the requirement to conduct a stress test when a homeowner renews a mortgage with another lender instead of only when staying with their current lender.
- Increase the limit on eligibility for mortgage insurance and index it to home price inflation.