La version française de ce billet se trouve ici.

With a federal election taking place in Canada on September 20, the Conservative Party of Canada has released its platform, which includes several housing-related measures; they include a pledge to create one million new homes in the first three years of a Conservative government.

Here are 10 things to know.

1. The platform contains an assertion about supply that may be misleading. The Conservatives say the “primary cause” of a lack of affordable housing “is that supply simply isn’t keeping up with demand.” While it’s true that there isn’t enough supply of subsidized housing in Canada (for low-income households) it may be misleading to suggest that a lack of supply in the larger housing universe is driving elevated house prices (George Fallis makes a strong argument against that here).

2. The Conservatives make an important link between housing and public transit. They pledge to create public transit in locations “where people are buying homes” and require “municipalities receiving federal funding for public transit to increase density near the funded transit…” I find it disappointing that the platform does not emphasize the need for having rental housing near public transit, especially rental housing that is owned by non-profit entities (including co-ops).[1]

3. The platform pledges to make federal buildings available for housing. Stating that the federal government owns more than 37,000 buildings, the Conservatives say they would make “at least 15%” of those buildings available for housing. This idea has merit. Indeed, during John Tory’s mayorship, the City of Toronto has made use of public lands—underused or vacant—for affordable housing through an initiative called Housing Now.

4. The Conservatives would allow Canadians to defer capital gains tax when selling a rental property and reinvesting in rental housing. Neither firms nor individuals would be required to pay taxes on the sale until they divest from rental housing completely. Such a measure would likely encourage both firms and individuals to purchase rental housing. A wide range of organizations—representing both the for-profit and non-profit sectors—have advocated in favour of this here.

5. The platform commits to enhancing the use of Community Land Trusts for affordable housing. The Conservatives would do this “by creating an incentive for corporations and private landowners to donate property to Land Trusts for the development of affordable housing.” More information on Community Land Trusts can be found here.

6. The Conservatives say they would address speculation in the real estate sector. They would try to curb money laundering by amending legislation, empowering law enforcement officials, and establishing a registry for residential property. They also assert they would ban non-residents from buying homes in Canada, which they say they would do on a trial two-year basis. These measures have the ostensible goal of reducing the selling price of houses.

7. The Conservatives would “encourage foreign investment in purpose-built rental housing that is affordable to Canadians.” This may be intended to counterbalance their proposal to ban non-residents from buying homes (see point #6 above). However, it strikes me as odd—it’s not as though there isn’t enough existing private ownership of rental units in Canada. Why not encourage more non-profit ownership of rental units (including the acquisition of existing private units)?

8. The platform has several commitments pertaining to mortgages. The Conservatives would make more Canadians in expensive cities eligible to become first-time homeowners. They would remove the requirement to conduct a stress test when a homeowner renews a mortgage with a different lender. The platform further encourages “a new market in seven- to ten-year mortgages…”

9. The plan praises the Housing First approach, while also focusing on drug treatment as a way to address homelessness (which is somewhat contradictory). Housing First refers to the immediate provision of housing to a person experiencing homelessness without requiring abstinence or mental health treatment as a condition of housing. The platform further claims that Housing First “has been watered down by the current federal government…” Having said that, as a way to address homelessness, the Conservatives say they would invest “$325 million over the next three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 recovery community centres across the country.” The Conservatives would also encourage “land-based treatment programs developed and managed by Indigenous communities…”

10. The platform makes no mention of supportive housing. By this I mean subsidized housing combined with social work support, typically geared toward persons with specific needs (e.g., persons with serious mental health challenges). Supportive housing has long been considered a viable approach to helping house persons who have experienced long-term homelessness.

In sum. The Conservatives’ housing platform is heavily biased in favour of home ownership (as opposed to renting) and for-profit ownership of rental housing. This does not bode well for low-income Canadians, especially the poorest 20% of Canadians. Further, the emphasis on drug treatment as a way to address homelessness is cause for concern.

I wish to thank the following individuals for assistance with this blog post: Alex Hemingway, Michel Laforge, Jeff Morrison, Doug Pawson, Steve Pomeroy, Sylvia Regnier, Vincent St-Martin, Marion Steele, Greg Suttor, Jennifer Tipple, Ricardo Tranjan and three anonymous reviewers.

[1] I’ve previously written about the benefits of non-profit ownership here.

This blog re-post was posted with permission from Nick Falvo. See original post here

The analysis and interpretations contained in this blog post are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.