Low-income Canadians should be focus of housing measures in federal budget, expert says

'Expand the funding for non-profit and community organizations to create that new rental housing that's outside of the pressures of the private market,' says Steve Pomeroy, a housing policy expert. (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)
'Expand the funding for non-profit and community organizations to create that new rental housing that's outside of the pressures of the private market,' says Steve Pomeroy, a housing policy expert. (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)

The average price of a home in Canada rose 20 per cent to more than $800,000 over the past year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) — one reason housing is a hot topic ahead of Thursday's budget.

The Liberal government is proposing several measures to ease the burden on homebuyers by spending upwards of $4 billion on a housing fund for the construction of new homes, increasing the tax credit for first-time homebuyers and money to convert empty offices into condominiums.

But low-income families are the ones facing the biggest crisis right now, said Steve Pomeroy, a housing policy expert and a senior research fellow at Carleton University in Ottawa, and the upcoming budget should reflect that.

"That's not as politically attractive as saying you're going to help first-time homebuyers," he said.

"We increased our housing construction by 40 per cent over the average of the previous 10 years. So we're already increasing that supply. So it hasn't had any impact in moderating the rate of price increases simply."

Pomeroy said there needs to be "targeted supply."

"Expand the funding for non-profit and community organizations to create that new rental housing that's outside of the pressures of the private market."

Crackdown on foreign buyers purchasing homes in Canada

Ottawa is also promising a crackdown on foreign ownership and blind bidding, which prevents prospective home-buyers from knowing the bids of others.

Research shows Canada is losing affordable housing rentals faster than they're being built as more large investors buy up the country's rental stock.

"I think every little bit helps," said Michael Bourque with the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Although Canada is facing a housing crisis, the federal government shouldn't move too quickly to ban foreign buyers as that could be a real boost for the economy, he said.

"So we don't want to prevent people from coming up here and participating in our society," Bourque said. "We do want to discourage the foreign buyer that's just buying an investment vehicle, leaving it empty and taking inventory from our housing supply."

More transparency to the housing market

Meanwhile, CREA announced a pilot project that will display real-time tracking of offers on listings.

Bourque said it's a first in Canada and will bring transparency to the housing market.

"It's tough to know who you're competing against. And, of course, they don't know the price," said Bourque. "They would have more transparency than the current process and would know what the last offer is."

Bourque said Openn Offers is scheduled to begin this summer in select markets across Canada.