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Canada  

Housing affordability key

The Trudeau government wants to make home-buying more affordable for millennials, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Tuesday as he held pre-budget public events in the Toronto suburbs.

Following a speech in Aurora, Ont., Morneau made the comment when he was asked if Ottawa has any plans to help first-time buyers enter the housing market at a time of rising interest rates, which make mortgages more expensive.

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October's federal election — and major parties have already begun to position themselves.

Real estate in Aurora, about 50 kilometres north of Toronto, has shot up in price about as quickly as it has anywhere. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price for all types of housing there was $810,000 in December. Detached homes were going for more than $918,000.

Morneau told the business audience that the Liberal government has focused on three housing-related issues since coming to office in 2015: Canada's shortage of affordable housing, a run-up in real-estate prices in some markets and ensuring millennials can afford homes.

The federal government, he said, has already tried to increase the supply of affordable housing and to cool the hottest markets — such as Toronto and Vancouver — by introducing stress tests that limit some people's ability to take out big mortgages.

"The middle part — the big middle part — is the affordable housing for millennials," said Morneau, who will release his election-year budget in the coming weeks that will also lay out Liberal platform commitments.

"That's a real challenge and there's multiple things we're looking at in order to think about how we can help in that regard."

Morneau didn't elaborate on what options are on the table.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio argued in a statement Tuesday that Trudeau government policies, including its carbon tax, have made housing less affordable.

"Justin Trudeau's policies are making life more expensive for Canadians, pushing their dream of owning a home further and further away," Vecchio said.

On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh proposed measures he insisted will help build 500,000 new affordable housing units across Canada over the next 10 years.

Singh only offered a few details, but said Ottawa should stop applying GST to the cost of building new affordable units, provide a subsidy to renters who spend more than 30 per cent of their incomes on housing and double a tax credit for first-time homebuyers to $1,500 from $750.



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