The affordable housing crisis is incredibly complex and crosses all boundaries and lines of government, political parties, high- to low-income groups, societal demographic groups from millennials to seniors, health-related groups and many other definitions of need.

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Despite the uninformed opinions of tenants, their advocates, some media and public housing agencies, government does not have the money to make a dent. Even the federal government’s 10-year $40-billion housing plan could generate only perhaps 18,900 units/year across Canada.

Most government solutions such as speculation taxes, banning “renoviction,” a $1-million home tax, foreign ownership taxes and so on all add cost to housing, making it more unaffordable despite political optics.

There are thousands of stories about what’s causing unaffordable housing. Rather than regurgitate symptoms and causes, the following are actionable items to create immediate and near-immediate results to alleviate housing availability and affordability. Space here doesn’t permit explanations, so contact me if you wish a fleshed-out version of these items.

  • CMHC insures public agencies (not landlords) to enter into multi-year “head lease” agreements with landlords to guarantee rent, operating costs and damage coverage if the agency can’t meet the obligation
  • Use Correctional Services to establish inmate training program for housing construction skills and trades. Use a selective labour force to construct affordable social housing while incarcerated (with conditions/limitations) or on parole
  • Lenders won’t finance affordable housing. CMHC should lower its super-conservative (exaggerated) expense allocations to make net operating income reflective of  the real-world market and substantially improve the application process
  • Provide incentives to unlock the tens of billions in residential property equity
  • Duplicate the condo-construction model for public housing. Require a reserve for inevitable upgrades, and the same as required by the Cemetery Act for grounds maintenance
  • Promote a rental housing tenancy agreement similar to the triple net commercial lease for residential rentals. Tenants pay for services they consume but tenants legislatively control these costs to benefit from savings
  • The construction industry retiring labour force is much higher than incoming talent. Create incentives for people to enter construction trades
  • CRA treats owner-managed rental properties as active income, not 50 per cent passive income tax
  • Amortize capital expenses over three years, not an average 15 years
  • Reduce or remove the Capital Cost Allowance repayment (“Recoverable”)
  • In Ontario, require MPAC to base residential investment property on actual NOI (especially income affected by rent control) and abandon inflated “should be” income values. Apply a “true” local market cap rate for a specific building type within narrow geographic boundaries
  • Equalize property taxes for all rental properties. Many municipalities levy two to 2.5 times more tax on rental properties than single-family homes. Tenants pay property taxes, not landlords
  • Government should not construct any general purpose rental housing. Instead, finance construction of community infrastructure. Builders will invest without incentives. Adopt measures similar to European post Second World War reconstruction, especially France, U.K. and Germany
  • Adding a second suites is the most effective and least expensive infill new-build affordable housing option. Remove the many disincentives especially in the brutal Residential Tenancies Act
  • Implement the U.S. low-income housing tax credit. Housing providers reserve low-rent units to earn corporate income tax credit
  • Offer tax incentive to co-living tenants and homeowners. Provide personal tax deduction to tenants who embrace a co-living lifestyle
  • Establish a rent control de-scaling formula. Guideline restrictions loosen as housing availability stabilizes demand with supply. Create incentive first for the market. Nothing lost if goal(s) not met
  • Investigate “war profiteering” by the Canadian insurance industry, since 2020 was one of the industry’s most profitable years, in the middle of a global pandemic. Extortionist profits add significantly to rental and purchased home unaffordability
  • Use federal housing program money to increase tenant rent supplements and allow the market to find its equilibrium. Market rent supports maintenance and growth of municipal infrastructure
  • Expand Housing Investment Corp. to deliver long-term, low-cost and insured financing to housing non-profit organizations and co-operatives through a bond issue for cautious investors
  • Compel municipalities to use all available funding sources before receiving federal or provincial monies, especially contributions-in-lieu for parklands. The GTA surplus is more than $5 billion
  • Create financial incentive(s) for seniors to sell their larger-than-needed homes and to age in place in smaller, less bustling communities
  • Much inflation and unaffordability is caused by goods and services shortages due to a massive entry port backlog. Escalate the issue to national “crisis” status
  • Study the 1960s rental housing construction boom. Eighty-two per cent of all rental housing in Ontario was built before 1979 – mostly in the 1960s. Research why
  • Remove/reduce provincial/federal sales tax on rental property operations expenses
  • Remove municipal embracing of NIMBY-ism
  • Reassess priorities of housing and intensification vs green space and parking
  • Electricity is a major housing contributor to unaffordability. Create corporate tax write-off (not “rebate program”) for landlords (not homeowners) to install solar power generation. Sell electricity back to the grid with the profit to recover installation investment. Government fund R&D of long-term, environmentally friendly solar power battery storage solutions
  • Provide builders with tax credits (not incentives) to construct alternative housing styles – multi-generational homes, energy-efficiency efficient space design
  • Compel municipalities to allow quick-and-easy approvals for alternative affordable home types like tiny homes, container homes, laneway homes, coach houses

Government adds substantial costs to housing affordability. Reducing taxes is not the answer but neither is adding more tax costs to property. We collectively need to vote for politicians with the political will and courage to make unpopular decisions to redistribute existing tax revenues to where they will have the most social benefit, rather than where it will gain the most votes.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Chris, we need more people like you. A lot of excellent points.

    We can’t rely on the government to fix the issue of affordable housing in this country; this is more effectively solved by the private sector. There are so many solutions for this! CMHC is providing aggressive loan program with 50 year amortization, low interest rate and longer fixed interest terms to ensure long term stabilization of rents. I’m so extremely frustrated by the lack of progress and attention by our own government. My equity group is able to balance industry leading returns for our investors WHILE tackling housing affordability. In 2022, we will be increasing the number of affordable units by 300+.

    Lets create more conversations and ideas around this!

  2. Let’s Raise the Interest rates to where the Canadian Dollar equals the American Dollar again; Those of us Retiree’s who are willing to take THE Million+$ for our homes; will Cash out and move South; only to return in the summer for Visitations; consequently there will be a flood of available homes on the Market to help lower the Prices: perhaps giving One Last Chance for the current Buyers to get something Affordable.

    • LOL. I wouldn’t want to move south if someone paid me. I actually sold my property in the USA after more than 20 years. Moving out of Canada will create a whole chain reaction as to the CRA , not being considered a resident , etc. etc. You may just be the only person who thinks like that so you leaving your home won’t make a dent

  3. Regarding J. A. P.’s comment about NIMBY-ism being racist, i think you meant perhaps prejudicial. In any event, it’s not. This is a can’t-have-your=cake-and-eat-it-too scenario. The Places To Grow legislation a decade ago constrained urban sprawl with a green belt that was intended in part to protect our food sources and in part to improve the return on investment of costly municipal infrastructure by increasing the number of users, that is, intensification (or densification). If you legislatively constrain available land for housing growth, then the ONLY place to increase housing is within the boundaries that were create by the politicians. Those elected representatives already made the decision that increased housing density within established perimeters was necessary. Therefore, municipalities should not be able to accommodate NIMBY-ism because it runs counter to already established legislation.

    And also counter to popular misperception, I have not found any formal and respected studies (versus “fake news”) that provides evidence that house values drop because of increased density of “missing middle” housing. In fact, I’ve read more than one study that shows just the opposite. Additionally, the increased housing density supports not on municipal infrastructure but also local business, the local economy, a greater variety of amenities and higher municipal taxes, which improve … everything.

  4. Mostly good suggestions except reference to “nimbyism”.
    You can’t blame homeowners who have invested their lives in owning a home and building a future for the faults and greed of the building industry. Use of terms like “nimbyism” is the modern equivalent of racism, and serves only to divide communities, not find equitable solutions.

  5. I can’t offer much insight on many of the points brought forth in determining their viability, but I can speak on zoning bylaws restricting current single family homes into allowing them to add secondary and possibly even tertiary suites.

    States like Oregon have recognized that having so much land dedicated only to single family homes, municipalities are creating the housing shortage.

    As a community, we have chosen to create one of the largest green belts around a city in the world (in the GTA). Since urban sprawl has been nearly eliminated because of the huge amount of protected land, and densification is practically outlawed in most cities across the country, combined with the surge in population, mostly because of immigration, Canada has created a serious housing situation.

    Allowing real estate investors the ability of adding THREE suites to one building lot will go a long way in adding more housing stock.

    The Missing Middle of residential housing is frustrating. Canadians essentially have a choice of single family homes or living in a large building (apartment or condo). Simply not available in Canada is new stock triplex’s or four plexes.

    This alone won’t solve the housing mess. One can argue that politicians and current home owners really don’t want to “solve” the housing shortage because that would lead to lower property values and a decrease in people’s personal net worth.

  6. Thank you Chris. Excellent article; very well presented. Though I am not opposed to government programs that aid developers ((ie) offering long term financing at attractive rates) I do believe that you have so many solid points and that government has made it unfeasible for entrepreneurs to invest in providing affordable housing

  7. The rental boom was more my Dad’s time but I believe the reason was that it was a sweet spot in time when land acquisition and building costs were less than what the building could be financed for. And that the difference was more than enough to provide a down payment on the next build. So the builders could just roll along, building rentals that financed themselves and paid themselves (notice it stopped as inflation took off). Building standards, labour costs and land costs and, unfortunately, greed all mean this is unlikely to be replicated even if rates are lower than they used to be. But you could create policy to get closer to it.

  8. I wish Chris had numbered them , so we can express specific hesitations/objections/ suggestions to individual point:

    EXCELLENT! (and first time I have heard) -public housing. Require a reserve set-aside for inevitable repair/replacement

    GOOD – rental properties as 50 per cent passive income tax

    Good – Amortize capital expenses over three years, not an average 15 years

    About time – Equalize property taxes for all rental properties.(bear in mind Lndlrds DO write-off this as Deductible expense

    About time -Adding a second suites is the most effective and least expensive infill

    Absolutely- Expand Housing Investment Corp. to deliver long-term, low-cost and insured financing to housing non-profit organizations and co-operatives through a bond issue for cautious investors

    FIRST time heard GREAT – Compel municipalities to use all available funding sources (especially contributions-in-lieu for parklands) before receiving federal or provincial monies,

    Allow MHC-style loan-guarantee insurance for a Seller who offers a 50% VTB SECOND (or Wraparound) to owner-occupant buyer —- an idea re: Create financial incentive(s) for seniors to sell their larger-than-needed homes

    CHRIS SEEPE should be paid member (rep of landlords and org R E industry) on EVERY Trreb OREA, CREA, RECO, City, GTA, Prov, Federal Housing TASK FORCE

    He is LIVING this reality and FRUSTRATION

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