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Making housing an issue in Canadian election

Written by Posted On Thursday, 29 December 2005 00:00

The Canadian election is about to kick into high gear, with the holidays almost behind us. There's been very little talk during the campaign about housing issues, but several groups are pushing candidates to make housing more of a priority before the vote on January 23.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) launched a special election website to keep its members up to date on current issues. CREA is pushing two specific issues for this election. The first is for a strong federal role in housing, including the presence of a federal housing minister. Joe Fontana is currently the Minister of Housing and Labour, and in previous governments the minister responsible for housing shared the portfolio with transportation issues.

CREA is asking candidates to comment on Realtors' support of a "multidimensional housing policy designed to make better use of existing stock in meeting housing needs; provide new options for home ownership to low-income earners; implement tax and regulatory changes to remove barriers to the affordability of housing; encourage transformative change in First Nations housing; and combat homelessness."

The real estate organization's second issue is sound fiscal management. "Realtors continue to call on the federal government to incorporate systematic national debt reduction via rolling debt reduction targets, further tax cuts, and spending discipline," says CREA. "We also strongly recommend that federal budgets for 2006 and beyond make tax cuts a higher priority than spending increases."

The CREA website also lists eight Realtors who are candidates in the election across the country. Three are running for the Liberals, three for the Conservatives, and one each for the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

The Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) is focusing on three "priority issues" in its lobbying efforts. They are:

  • "Preserving and extending housing affordability through immediate indexation of the GST rebate for new home buyers and tax reform for rental housing investment";

  • "Training and facilitating immigration of skilled tradespeople so desperately needed now and in the future"; and

  • "Tackling the underground economy that steals tax revenues and undermines housing markets to the detriment of Canadian consumers."

The home builders say that "increasing federal taxation is undermining housing affordability. In particular, the federal government is collecting over $150 million a year that should be going to new home buyers via GST rebates."

On the matter of finding more skilled tradespeople, the CHBA says, "Despite years of study, there is still no coherent, focused federal government support for training highly skilled tradespeople that the residential sector requires."

It is calling for revised immigration rules and "proper treatment of undocumented workers already in Canada."

On the issue of the underground economy, CHBA says, "The federal government has failed to meet its commitment to ensure a 'level playing field between honest contractors and those who participate in the underground economy.' Canadians are losing billions of dollars annually through cash-only operators."

A consumer advocacy group, Canadians for Properly Built Homes (CPBH) is calling on the federal government to revise the National Building Code "to help ensure that all homes are safe, healthy, durable and energy efficient. Examples of specific revisions required include: improving indoor air quality, establishing longevity standards and improving energy saving standards."

The organization says that since the 1980s, "new housing quality has sunk to what many Canadians now call 'disposable' housing." It says longevity standards would address that issue.

The group is also calling for the establishment of a national builder rating system. "Currently, there is no objective, reliable information source relating to builder performance that is available to consumers," says the CPBH. The group also wants to see that affordable housing units are properly built, beyond the minimum applicable building codes; that a national study be conducted on the health effects of improperly built homes and their impact on Canada's health system; that the federal government consult with consumers prior to finalizing housing policies; and that the federal government work with other levels of government to ensure that building codes are enforced.

The group sent letters to the leaders of the three largest national parties requesting that they commit to these positions, but it says to date, no responses have been received.

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair is editor of REM: Canada's Real Estate Magazine, a business publication for real estate agents and brokers. He has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 30 years. You can contact Jim at

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