Finance Minister Bill Morneau arrives for a cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Morneau says the federal government is looking at ways to make home-buying more affordable for millennials.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

The Trudeau government is looking for ways to make home-buying more affordable for millennials, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Tuesday as he held pre-budget public events in the Toronto suburbs.

Morneau made the comment after giving a speech in Aurora, Ont., where he was asked if Ottawa has any plans to help first-time buyers enter the housing market at a time of rising interest rates and mortgage costs.

Housing, with all that it means for people’s personal finances and lifestyles, is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election — and major parties have already begun to position themselves.

Morneau told the business audience that the Liberal government has focused on three housing-related issues since coming to office in 2015: Canada’s shortage of affordable housing, a run-up in real-estate prices in some markets and ensuring millennials can afford homes.

The federal government, he said, has already tried to increase the supply of affordable housing and to cool the hottest markets — such as Toronto and Vancouver — by introducing stress tests that limit some people’s ability to take out big mortgages.

“The middle part — the big middle part — is the affordable housing for millennials,” said Morneau, who will release his election-year budget in the coming weeks that will also lay out Liberal platform commitments.

“That’s a real challenge and there’s multiple things we’re looking at in order to think about how we can help in that regard.”

READ MORE: Average millennial could wait 150+ years to buy home in one B.C. city: report

Morneau didn’t elaborate on what options are on the table. A spokesman for Morneau later declined to offer more details.

Higher price tags in some markets have created concerns among younger Canadians hoping to borrow money to purchase homes.

Where Morneau was speaking in Aurora, about 50 kilometres north of Toronto, real estate has shot up in price about as quickly as it has anywhere. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price for all types of housing there was $810,000 in December. Detached homes were going for more than $918,000.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio argued in a statement Tuesday that Trudeau government policies, including its carbon tax, have made housing less affordable.

“Justin Trudeau’s policies are making life more expensive for Canadians, pushing their dream of owning a home further and further away,” Vecchio said.

On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh proposed measures he insisted will help build 500,000 new affordable housing units across Canada over the next 10 years.

Singh only offered a few details, but said Ottawa should stop applying GST to the cost of building new affordable units, provide a subsidy to renters who spend more than 30 per cent of their incomes on housing and double a tax credit for first-time home-buyers to $1,500 from $750.

In fall 2017, the Liberals unveiled a 10-year, $40-billion national housing strategy, which the government has billed as a plan that will provide more social housing and affordable rental units.

It was designed to build up Canada’s stock of affordable housing and eventually provide direct benefits to tenants to ensure fewer Canadians remain or become homeless. The government insisted the approach would also help make homes more affordable in markets like Vancouver by giving young Canadians more affordable rental options where few currently exist.

In their 2015 election platform, the Liberals also promised to enhance the popular Home Buyers’ Plan, which enables first-time buyers to borrow up to $25,000 tax-free from their registered retirement savings to put towards the purchase of a home. The amount must be repaid within 15 years.

READ MORE: Millennial Money: Don’t let Instagram envy get you into debt

But the Liberals haven’t appeared to be in a hurry to fulfil the pledge, which would enable Canadians affected by major life events — death of a spouse, divorce or taking in an elderly relative — to dip into their RRSPs to help with the purchase of a home.

Internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press via the Access to Information Act have revealed the Liberals have had second thoughts about the idea out of concern expanding the plan would throw fuel on overheated housing markets.

The promise to modernize the plan has been labelled “Actions taken, progress made, facing challenges,” according to a website the government created to track the tasks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assigned to his cabinet ministers.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tour recognizes Prince Rupert’s rich labour history

Epic story of the Battle of Kelly’s Cut put Rupert on the labour radar

Rio Tinto responds to U.S. aluminum import tariffs

The tariffs were imposed by President Donald Trump Aug. 6

Coastal GasLink breaks ground on meter station in Kitimat

Meter station marks final point on pipeline that stretches from Northeast B.C.

Oily rain runoff down the drain causes concern for Prince Rupert residents

Immediate action taken to alleviate any concerns, road paving contractor said.

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

Most Read