Looking for a solution to the problem of high housing costs

The high cost of housing

With Parliament not scheduled to sit again until Jan. 31, I've been able to dedicate more of my time to work here in the riding connecting with you, and I have heard over and over again your concerns about housing costs.

The Association of Interior Realtors recently reported the benchmark selling price of a typical single-family home in Kelowna has now risen to more than $1 million – $1,004,900 to be exact – up from $761,000 just a year ago.

House prices in Lake Country rose similarly with new figures from B.C. Assessment showing a one-year increase of 32%, with the median value for a single-family home at $886,000.

These increases are alarming. The escalation in home values jeopardizes the ability of seniors on fixed incomes to maintain their homes, prevents first-time homebuyers from ever being able to buy a home, forces families to live in homes that no longer suit their family size, and force people to spend far more than 30% of their pre-tax income on rent.

The Canadian Real Estate Association’s chief economist has called nationwide increases “the biggest gain of all time.”

This record annual gain follows the $400 billion of newly-created cash the government has pumped into financial markets since 2020. Much of this cash has been lent out in risky variable-rate mortgages at interest rates well below inflation. As a result, the government is effectively paying people to borrow money.

I'm not new to this issue. Last spring, I held a local housing roundtable with many local organizations who work in the housing sector who raised red flags about this type of inflation even then. Many of the grassroots suggestions talked about at my roundtable have fed into the policies proposed by the Conservative Party.

Recently, the Official Opposition called on the House of Commons Finance Committee to study the root causes of house price inflation. We need an honest assessment of how our historic rate of federal spending and other federal policies over the past six years are leaving home ownership out of reach for millions.

With those studies now underway, Canadians will hopefully be able to hear real answers from our finance minister and Bank of Canada officials as well as other witnesses. I hope to hear how the government expects to rein in our inflationary spending and get house prices back to affordable levels.

The spending, taxation and lending policies of our federal government have an impact on home prices in our community and it’s important we tackle the causes of inflation.

Lastly, while time is of the essence on this issue, we cannot let ourselves take any solution offered.

Many of you have been in touch with me about reports of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation funding a study advocating a surtax on homes valued above a million dollars.

It doesn't take an accounting degree to understand a surtax's potential impact on Kelowna-Lake Country homeowners. With the median house price in Kelowna now over $1 million, adding a new tax on the median home will only make housing more unaffordable. It is a completely wrong solution to an urgent problem.

We cannot tax our way out of the housing crisis.

I will continue to fight for real solutions to make our housing market affordable and oppose any new taxes that would put ownership out of reach for more families.

Hopefully, this is something all parties will agree on in 2022.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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