Photo: Lucas George Wendt / Unsplash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised federal support and solutions for municipalities aimed at addressing the soaring cost of housing.

In a virtual speech that addressed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) during day two of its 2021 Annual Conference and Trade Show, Trudeau said that “in too many places, owning a home is too far out of reach.” In the speech, he pointed to Toronto as being in a particularly severe situation, with the average family needing nearly 280 months to save for a downpayment.

“Young people aren’t just facing a housing problem, they’re facing a housing crisis,” said Trudeau. “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.”

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Since April 2020, the average price of a home at the national level has risen by 23 percent, or $135,000, according to commentary published last month by RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue. Oxford Economics recently identified Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton as the top three least affordable housing markets in North America, beating out high-priced US cities such as San Jose and Los Angeles.

Trudeau noted that there is “no silver bullet” to fixing the housing crisis, but outlined some of the policies the Liberal government has put in place over the past five years to address the situation, such as the National Housing Strategy, the Rapid Housing Initiative and the First-Time Homebuyers Incentive. This also includes an annual national tax on vacant, non-Canadian-owned homes, which was introduced as part of the 2021 federal budget in April.

Photo: James Bombales

Through the FCM, Trudeau said that there have been requests for a “formal and reoccurring dialogue” on housing affordability. He said that the federal government will bring resources and tools to such discussions. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, along with Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen, are slated to have further conversations with the FCM and municipal leaders across the country about housing affordability, Trudeau said.

Earlier this week, Freeland met with FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus to discuss “maximizing the recovery value of new investments in housing,” according to a statement issued by BCMC Chair and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. Further reporting says that Canada’s mayors pushed Minister Freeland for a timeline as to when the Liberals would achieve its goal of ending chronic homelessness in Canada, as well as when more housing help would be provided for urban Indigenous people.

In April, Freeland voiced the federal government’s intention to work with provinces to increase housing supply in Canada at a virtual event hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

“Something that we want to work with provinces, municipalities on is really finding more and more creative ways to increase housing supply in Canada,” said Freeland said during the online event, according to CTV.

Trudeau said that the federal government would also be reaching out to territorial and provincial partners on finding solutions to the housing crisis.

“The levers needed to take on the housing crisis exist at all orders of government, from zoning and approvals, to consumer protection, to mortgage rules,” said Trudeau. “We have to take this on together. So I want you to know that as always, our government is here to be your partner.”

The FCM 2021 Annual Conference will be held until Friday, June 4th.

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