The issue of housing is something I’ve heard more and more about over the last few years, and continues to be top of mind to many in Kelowna-Lake Country, especially with the rise in interest rates a record eight times over the past year.
That is why Conservatives asked the government ahead of the budget to introduce a plan to bring down inflation and bring homes people can afford. Unfortunately, Budget 2023’s plans on housing are sorely lacking.
Despite the federal government’s claims of taking the housing issue seriously, their latest budget has only six pages dedicated to housing measures, in a document that is nearly 300 pages long.
One of the hallmark items the government announced to help with home ownership is a Tax-Free First Home Savings Account. Outside of the fact that Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) are already available for Canadians, this account would only benefit those who are actually able to save money.
That is backed up by Statistics Canada data which shows credit card debt in Canada has risen 14% since 2021to $93 billion. The facts is, since the current federal government took office, the average down payment needed to buy the average house has doubled. The average mortgage payment has doubled. The average cost of rent has doubled. Nine out of 10 young people believe they’ll never be able to afford a home, and a recent Ipsos poll reported more than 60% of Canadians who presently do not own a home have given up on ever owning one.
Even for those who own a home, maintaining ownership has become harder with interest rate hikes and the impacts of rising inflation and taxes which have spiked the cost of gas, groceries and home heating. I recently heard from a local senior who said she would like to be able to live alone, but has to live with three other people just to get by.
Recently, CIBC reported one in five of the mortgages in their portfolio are in a position where the borrower’s monthly payment is not high enough to even cover the interest, let alone the principal mortgage, and are seeing their loan balances grow despite continuing to pay their mortgage monthly.
In Parliament, I currently sit on the Human Resources committee, and one of the areas this committee has a mandate on is housing. Our committee has undertaken studies in this area and have called the housing minister and the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) to answer questions from committee members on their inaction on this file. It was disappointing that the housing minister refused to even acknowledge that we are in a housing crisis, with even one of his Liberal colleagues on the committee calling it a crisis.
CMHC data for January 2023 showed that new housing starts were at the lowest level since 2020, and Canada now has the lowest number of housing units per 1,000 residents of any G7 country.
The most recent Angus Reid data showed that fully one-in-three Canadians are either in “bad” or “terrible” shape financially and 35% are deferring or not making contributions to an RRSP or TFSA, an increase of 13% just since September.
This shows how out of touch the federal government is with making a TFSA a new hallmark of their housing strategy.
All the data points to one thing – we are in a housing crisis, even if the federal housing minister doesn’t think so, and the government needs to act to remove gatekeepers, and get more houses built.
The government also needs to put forth budgets that won’t perpetuate inflation, like the 2023 high debt, high spent, and high tax Budget which will leave more people behind.
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Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.