As Canadians head to the polls for a federal election, there’s an unprecedented amount of focus on accessible and affordable housing. Unlike previous years where the elected party would implement housing plans as part of their budget, this time “home ownership and affordability is one of the top things the political parties are presenting in their platforms, and they’re walking in with detailed, multi-point plans right out of the gate — and that’s what people will vote on,” said Grant Armstrong, director of national sales at Community Trust.
“Right now, housing, mortgages and finance are part of the foundation of what parties are being elected to do coming into office,” Grant said, noting the Green Party is yet to release a platform. “Canadians enjoy one of the highest home ownership rates in the world, it’s key to their financial security and success and the majority of the federal parties are making it a top priority for this year’s election.”
The finance industry, and more specifically the housing market, is an important part of the country’s ongoing economic recovery as it remains mired in the various impacts of the pandemic. Protecting the stability of the Canadian mortgage market but making changes to ensure that the right segments of the population — such as first time home buyers and the self-employed — can access financing to support housing demands is top of mind and reflected through a number of initiatives by the parties.
For Armstrong, a few of the proposed policies stand out. Supply was tackled by the three main parties, all of which are promising more homes – whether it be through affordable housing units, the construction of new properties or the sale of Crown assets. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives suggest adjusting the cap on the mortgage amount for CMHC insurance based on the region you’re in, indexed to inflation, and the NDP has touched on adjusting the amortization period which “really enables affordability,” Armstrong said, as clients would be better able to afford mortgage payments, get into housing earlier and it would provide greater stability in mortgage payments for a longer time.
Though Armstrong said he is very curious and excited to see what their plan is, the Conservatives are focusing on making mortgages more accessible to small business owners, contractors and other non-permanent employees, which is a timely approach given more Canadians are self-employed than ever before, he noted, and need help qualifying for both traditional and non-traditional mortgages. There’s also a focus on making sure buyers have as many rights as sellers do, with the Liberals spelling out a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights that includes banning blind bidding, double representation disclosure, right to a home inspection and up to six months mortgage deferral for life events, which “we saw through the COVID period, but this would make it more of a mainstay to provide that flexibility,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is also a big fan of increasing the Home Buyers Tax Credit, which both the Liberals and the NDP propose doubling, and putting more energy towards the co-ownership program offered through CMHC. He also “really loves” the idea of a $40,000 tax free First Home Savings Account.
“That’s a great opportunity to help clients get into the home,” Armstrong said of the Liberals’ proposal. “Bottom line, all of these policies are designed to help Canadians get into today’s housing market and any of them would create positive change.”
This is an incredible time for Canadians, and an unprecedented time as well, as the country continues to grapple with the impact of a global pandemic, a re-envisioning of the finance industry and a federal government with a focus on helping people achieve their home ownership goals — and that aligns with Community Trust’s mission.
“It’s important for Community Trust to be aware of what’s going on in the marketplace and what the different plans are, so that whichever party is elected we understand what’s coming down the pipe over the next three, six or nine months,” Armstrong said, adding how the votes fall “informs us about what Canadians want.”
“We’ll continue to monitor the situation and whoever is elected, we’ll start planning to support those polices with proper products and solutions.”
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