Budget 2022 was introduced on April 7 with a significant focus on the supply and affordability of housing in Canada. BCREA was encouraged to hear Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland accurately diagnose the root cause of the country’s housing affordability problem. “Canada does not have enough homes,” Freeland said. “We need more of them, fast.”
New spending towards housing totalled $10.1 billion, which – apart from climate change and Indigenous reconciliation – was the largest area of new spending in the budget and demonstrates that the government is beginning to seriously prioritize tackling Canada’s housing crisis.
Below is an overview of new commitments in the budget that may impact BC’s real estate sector.
Many commitments made to increase housing supply align with BCREA’s ongoing advocacy. The largest of these commitments was a new Housing Accelerator Fund, which will invest in municipal housing planning and delivery processes to speed up developments. Existing infrastructure programs will now tie infrastructure funding to actions by provincial and local governments to increase housing supply, which BCREA called for in our pre-budget submission. Additionally, more funds are being allocated to the National Co-Investment Fund, which will expand co-op housing.
There was also a commitment to launching a Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit, which will allow families to claim 15 per cent (up to a $7,500 credit) in eligible renovation and construction costs incurred to construct a secondary suite for seniors or adults with disabilities.
Several proposals within the budget specifically target housing supply for Indigenous Canadians, including the initiation of an Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.
Assistance for First-Time Homebuyers
The budget also increases much-needed incentives for first-time homebuyers, through a new Tax-Free First Home Savings Account. Beginning in 2023, it will give prospective first-time homebuyers the ability to contribute up to $40,000. Like a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), contributions would be tax-deductible, while withdrawals to purchase a first home would be non-taxable, like a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). In addition, the First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit will be doubled to $10,000, retroactive to homes purchased on or after January 1, 2022.
Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights
The budget also re-affirmed the government’s commitment to introduce a Home Buyer’s Bill of Rights. This would include a national plan to end “blind bidding” as well as possibly include a legal right to a home inspection and ensuring transparency on the history of sales prices on title searches. While we support the intent to protect homebuyers, independent research shows that banning “blind bidding” would likely lead to higher prices in a hot real estate market.
Reducing Foreign Demand
The budget committed to introducing legislation designed to reduce foreign demand in real estate. The legislation would prohibit non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents as well as non-Canadian commercial enterprises from acquiring non-recreational, residential property in Canada for two years. We are concerned this measure needlessly targets non-Canadians, creating barriers for attracting foreign investment, and will potentially result in reciprocal policies from other countries targeting Canadian “foreign” owners.
Other demand-side measures
In addition to targeting demand from non-Canadians, the government will also conduct a review of housing as an asset class to better understand the role of large corporate players in the market and the impact on renters and homeowners. They will also introduce legislation to introduce an “anti-flipping tax” beginning January 1, 2023.
Another core aspect of the budget was new commitments to improve the energy efficiency of homes. These include strengthening affordability and energy efficiency requirements within the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, developing a Canada Green Buildings Strategy, creating the Deep Retrofit Accelerator Initiative and expanding tax deductions for business investments in clean energy equipment to include air-source heat pumps. These initiatives are designed to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets of 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
While there are several proposals that raise concern in Budget 2022 and require further consultation, detail and scrutiny before implementation, overall, BCREA is encouraged that the federal government is taking initial steps to tackle the country’s affordability crisis.