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In federal budget, Ottawa looks to Canada Post land for building housing supply



The federal government has set its sights on unlocking the potential of unused properties owned by Canada Post and National Defence to address the pressing issue of housing affordability and supply across the country.


Announced in the latest federal budget, the plan aims to release lands currently held by these entities for the construction of housing units on a scale not witnessed in decades. The objective is ambitious: to add 3.87 million new homes to the market by 2031, effectively doubling the pace of housing construction.


According to Mike Moffatt, a senior director at the Smart Prosperity Institute, while the budget is a significant step forward, it may not fully bridge the gap in housing supply, but it certainly makes substantial progress.


The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. has highlighted the need for 3.5 million additional homes by 2030 to restore affordability to levels seen nearly two decades ago. Similarly, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has stressed the necessity of building 181,000 more units annually until 2030 to meet demand.


To achieve the ambitious target, the government's strategy includes various initiatives, such as unlocking vacant public land for development and providing incentives to builders. Canada Post, with its extensive portfolio of post offices nationwide, is a key player in this plan. The government is currently evaluating several Canada Post properties across Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta for their potential in housing development.


National Defence's properties, numbering 622, are also under consideration. Sites in Halifax, Toronto, and Vancouver have been earmarked for potential civilian or military use, with surplus properties identified for housing purposes.


To facilitate the utilization of public land for housing, the budget proposes a $5 million investment over three years in an overhaul of the Canada Lands Co., aimed at streamlining land transfers and reducing approval times.


The government's rationale behind freeing up land for construction is to alleviate housing costs for Canadians, ensuring that housing expenses do not exceed 30% of their income. This comes at a time when the cost of homeownership in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver has skyrocketed, placing it out of reach for many first-time buyers.


In addition to addressing homeownership, the budget also focuses on rental housing affordability. The launch of Canada Builds aims to incentivize the construction of rental units for middle-income Canadians, leveraging existing programs and partnerships with provinces and territories.


Furthermore, the budget confronts the issue of speculative investment in real estate, emphasizing that homes are meant for living, not as assets for investors. With investors reportedly accounting for a significant portion of home purchases in recent years, the government aims to reassure Canadians that steps are being taken to prioritize housing for residents rather than speculative gains.


Overall, the federal budget outlines a comprehensive approach to tackle the housing crisis, leveraging both public and private sectors to boost supply and affordability, aiming to ensure that all Canadians have access to secure and affordable housing options.


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