Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson looks on as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers opening remarks at the start of a meeting with mayors of Canada’s largest cities in Ottawa, Thursday February 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson looks on as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers opening remarks at the start of a meeting with mayors of Canada’s largest cities in Ottawa, Thursday February 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises cities help to lower high cost of housing

PM says it can take 280 months for an average family to save a down payment in a place like Toronto

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised municipal leaders federal backing and resources toward efforts to address the high cost of housing that he says is creating a crisis for young and middle-class families.

The cost of housing has risen across the country, driven by a mix of low interest rates and demand outstripping supply as Canadians working from home look for more space.

Speaking to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual meeting, Trudeau said the cost of owning a home is out of reach for too many people in Canada’s largest cities, noting it can take 280 months for an average family to save for a down payment in a place like Toronto.

“Young people aren’t facing a housing problem, they’re facing a housing crisis,” Trudeau said Tuesday in a speech that had a campaign feel to it.

“We’ve got a generation of Canadians who are starting their lives, maybe hoping to start a family, without the same opportunity as their parents or grandparents to get a first home and build equity and their future. Things need to change.”

He said his government would look for ways to change the situation beyond what the Liberals have already laid out, but didn’t outline what those solutions might be.

Trudeau said in the speech that the federal government alone can’t cool housing costs, saying the levers exist at all levels of government, such as zoning rules and consumer protection regimes.

He said the Liberals will reach out to provinces and territories to find solutions to ease concerns around housing affordability.

The average home price in April was just under $696,000, a 41.9 per cent year-over-year increase, based on data from the Canadian Real Estate Association. The association noted the national average would be $144,000 less if the greater Vancouver and Toronto areas were excluded from calculations.

The government proposed billions in this year’s budget to boost the supply of affordable housing, seeing it as a way to bring down overall prices. The government is also promising a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign buyers, a measure whose efficacy has been questioned by experts.

Just days ago, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the government would tighten the mortgage stress test for insured mortgages, matching a similar move by a federal banking regulator. The new rules came into effect Tuesday.

The Opposition Conservatives have been critical of the government’s response to rising prices, including on Tuesday during the daily question period in the House of Commons.

Conservative MP James Cumming said inflation in the sector was particularly pronounced, especially as prices on lumber rise and add to building costs. He suggested the government needed to take “decisive action versus hollow announcements” to deal with high housing costs.

During his talk with municipal leaders, Trudeau pointed to the government’s decade-long housing strategy as part of federal actions.

When it was unveiled in 2017, the Liberals promised it would help build 160,000 new housing units, repair 300,000 more and provide the same number of households with subsidies.

The first triennial report on the strategy noted funding has flowed or been committed to build 63,600 units, repair 126,000 more, and subsidize housing costs for 36,000 households by the end of 2020.

The report also noted how many first-time homebuyers received mortgage aid through one part of the strategy that Trudeau touted Tuesday as helping make homebuying more affordable.

The $1.25-billion, three-year program sees the government cover between five to 10 per cent of mortgage costs for first-time buyers by taking an equity stake in their home. By the end of 2020, the program had provided $197 million to 10,600 buyers.

The government has since raised the value limit for mortgages for buyers in Toronto and Vancouver, but still requires recipients to eventually pay the money back.

—Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Bank of Canada warns of rising risks from household debt, and a hot housing market

RELATED: Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

Federal PoliticsJustin Trudeau

Just Posted

A concept rendering of the proposed seven-unit, two-storey development at 1129 Riverside Ave. in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous graphic)
Proposed luxury development in Sicamous sparks parking concerns

Seven-unit commercial-residential building planned for Riverside Avenue

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Shuswap Litas and Son of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Most Read