Since being elected in 2015, the Federal Liberal Government has made numerous changes with respect to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) policy that in many situations has made it more difficult to obtain a mortgage or in the case of re-financing an existing mortgage, more expensive. Generally the Liberal Government has reasoned these changes are intended to slow down the Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets and lower overall consumer debt.
Why would the Government want to slow down the real estate market in Toronto and Vancouver? The theory is if fewer buyers can qualify to purchase homes, the demand will decrease and prices will potentially drop as a result and by extension increase affordability in these markets.
The challenge with this particular approach is that CMHC policies are very much a 'one size fits all'. That means that although Vancouver and Toronto are the primary targets of these new restrictions, the rest of Canada is also subject to them and as a result many regions of Canada may be adversely impacted. This was feedback I heard extensively during hearings at the Finance Committee back in February when these changes were heavily scrutinized.
One particular point that was raised from one stakeholder is that while the Liberals crack down on debt taken on for home ownership, overlooked is the consumer debt on credit cards, third party loan outfits and elsewhere. The difference is that with debt taken on in home ownership there can be equity created and much lower interest costs in contrast to credit card debt.
It is a valid point.
More recently the Trudeau Liberal Government quietly announced that it will raid CMHC to the tune of $ 4 Billion over the next two years. This announcement received very little media attention and that is disappointing. For those who have mortgages with a down payment less than 20%, the CMHC fees required to provide insurance on that mortgage are substantial. Instead of reducing CMHC fees to make them more affordable or refund the surplus to those who have paid them, the Liberals are instead using CMHC as cash grab, contrary to the purpose of this organization.
Rather than just oppose, I would like to propose an alternative. Instead of taking $4 Billion from CMHC to go into general revenue, why not offer a GST exemption on new housing up to $750,000, similar to what the BC Government has done with the property purchase tax exemption. This policy would reduce the costs of home ownership by tens of thousands of dollars. At the same time this policy would help stimulate economic activity through increased construction, would increase housing supply and would help Canada’s value added wood producers hit hard by the current softwood lumber dispute.
My question this week – Instead of a $4 Billion cash grab from CMHC would you support those funds being used for a GST rebate on new housing?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call 1-800-665-8711
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.