Federal government plans to lease public lands for construction through new housing strategy

13 April 2024
Federal government plans to lease public lands for construction through new housing strategy


Housing Minister Sean Fraser has announced what he’s calling an ambitious strategy to tackle Canada’s housing crisis.

Fraser said Friday the strategy — Canada’s Housing Plan — will build more homes, make renting or buying a home easier and do more to support those who can’t afford a place to live.

This is the Trudeau government’s second national housing strategy. In 2017, it launched a 10-year housing plan aimed at building 100,000 affordable housing units and repairing 300,000 affordable housing units. Fraser said the new measures will supplement the 2017 plan.

At a news conference in Vaughan, Ont. on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government’s latest effort is the “most comprehensive and ambitious housing plan ever seen in Canada.”

“It’s a plan to build housing, including for renters, on a scale not seen in generations. We’re talking about almost 3.9 million homes by 2031.”

Canada would need to build 3.1 million homes by 2030 to close the housing gap, according to a report by the parliamentary budget officer published Thursday.

Leasing public lands for affordable housing

Highlights of the new strategy include plans for the federal government to lease and build on underused public lands to make housing more available and affordable.

The strategy also promises a new mapping tool to track the inventory of public lands.

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“Where the public interest demands maintaining ownership of public land, the federal government will maintain ownership but make land available through long-term leases to ensure that land can be used for housing,” Fraser said.

Details of the government’s plans for public lands will be unveiled in Budget 2024 on April 16.

The government’s latest strategy also includes a new Canada Secondary Suite Loan Program to give homeowners access to low-interest loans of up to $40,000 to allow them to add secondary suites to their homes.

The Liberal government released its strategy to build 3.9 million homes in the next seven years, dubbed the Canadian Housing Plan. It includes incentives for home builders, low-cost financing and opening up federal land for housing.

To prevent speculation and ensure that houses are being used as residences for Canadians, the government will be extending its ban on ownership of residential properties by foreign investors until Jan. 1, 2027.

The government intends to increase the capital cost allowance rate for apartments from four to 10 per cent, which will boost the amount builders can write off on their taxes.

It’s also extending the GST exemption on rentals to student residences built by public universities, colleges and school authorities. The measure will apply to new student residences that started construction on or after Sept. 14, 2023, and before 2031, so long as they are built before 2036.

Much of the plan has been released already

Several initiatives listed in Canada’s Housing Plan are projects the government has already announced, such as the elimination of income tax deductions for expenses incurred for short-term rentals that contravene provincial or municipal regulations.

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association welcomed the government’s plan Friday, particularly its extension of the mortgage amortization limit to 30 years for first-time home buyers.

The association said in a news release that attaching housing conditions to transit funding and seeking to change the National Building Code to speed up construction of housing units show the government “recognized that a comprehensive approach is needed to address Canada’s housing affordability crisis.”

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On April 4, Trudeau previewed some of the housing commitments in Budget 2024, saying $1.5 billion would go toward helping non-profit organizations acquire rental units and keep them affordable. That funding is part of the Co-operative Housing Development Program that will start this summer.

Another $15 billion will be allocated for the Apartment Construction Loan Program, bringing available funding to $55 billion. The program is meant to build 30,000 new rental apartments in big cities, towns and rural communities.

New Democrat critic for housing Alexandre Boulerice expressed frustration with the announcement, saying Trudeau “disappointed Canadians by delaying measures to keep housing affordable” during his eight years as government.

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“They’re facing sky-high grocery prices and rent. They’re seeing rich CEOs get richer off their backs while they scrimp and save,” Boulerice said in a news release Friday. “People can’t seem to get ahead.”

Combined effort with provinces

The Liberals’ housing strategy depends in part on co-operation from provinces and territories, some of which have already pushed back on the federal government over what they argue is jurisdictional overreach.

In addition to setting aside $1 billion over four years for the Reaching Home program — a federal homelessness initiative — the government will allocate $250 million to help end encampments and transition people into housing. It is calling on provinces and territories to match that amount.

Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick were unhappy with Ottawa’s decision to make access to new infrastructure money contingent on a set of conditions, including legalizing fourplexes.

But Fraser pushed back on those criticisms, arguing that Canadians just want the problem solved.

“It was important that we do what we can to embrace the challenge and demonstrate to Canadians that even where there may be technical jurisdictional obstacles, that wasn’t going to give us a reason to do anything less than the very best that we can,” he said.

Source: cbc

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