Housing spending under the National Housing Strategy
The new Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is Ahmed Hussen, who was formerly the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Broadly speaking, he is mandated to deal with three main housing policy areas.
Building and renovating housing under the NHS
Minister Hussen is to continue to build and renovate housing through the National Housing Strategy (NHS). That includes the repair and expansion of community housing, supportive housing and shelters, and low-cost financing for new rental construction, with some affordability component.
For rental developers, the value of housing subsidies and low-cost financing delivered under the NHS is clear. To serve rental providers in all areas, those financial supports for new construction should be focused on areas with housing shortages, and on creating supportive housing to house people hard to house in the private sector. CFAA advocates those two focuses, and they are largely being addressed.
Table 2 shows the projects approved up to August 2, 2019 in several of the key geographic areas which CFAA is monitoring.
Table 2: Approved NHS Projects (# of projects; dollars in thousands)
Canada Housing Benefit
Minister Hussen is also mandated to ensure the effective implementation of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB).
The CHB is to be jointly funded by the provinces and the federal government. While the designs may differ somewhat from province to province, the CHB is to be a form of direct financial assistance to low-income renters, with an element of portability.
CFAA encourages the use of the new CHB in the private rental market, with a focus on the people who need the housing help the most because they have the largest affordability gap. Besides that, the CHB will be used to support tenants in community housing while their homes are retrofitted or renovated. The exact program design is up to the federal government and each province; and so, CFAA works on the CHB issues with our member-apartment association in each province.
On December 19, 2019, Minister Hussen and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for Ontario, announced the Canada-Ontario agreement to implement the new Canada Housing Benefit in Ontario. That agreement is the first of what will likely be 13 separate agreements, one for each province and territory.
CFAA is proud of the major role we played in achieving the inclusion of housing benefits in the NHS, and the work we have done with our member associations to encourage the use of the new benefit in the private rental market.
Measures to facilitate homeownership
Minister Hussen is also to ensure the effective implementation of the new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI), increasing the qualifying value in high-cost markets (such as Toronto and Vancouver), and making the program adjust to reflect changing market dynamics. Finance Minister Morneau is to consider making the borrower stress test more dynamic.
Both measures will assist higher income renters to buy homes. In weak rental markets, that is against the interests of rental housing providers, but in strong markets that program helps the rental housing industry by enabling turnover and by relieving some of the upward pressure on rents, which is leading to calls for more landlord regulation, such as tighter rent control.