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Trudeau's budget eyes young voters with affordable housing push



Canada’s forthcoming budget is honing in on housing as a priority, with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland putting forward proposals to accelerate construction and enhance the availability of affordable homes, potentially leveraging government-owned land in the process.


Experts in the housing sector suggest that the budget, slated for release on April 16, may feature initiatives to facilitate homebuilding on government-held property. Among the possibilities are schemes offering extended, low-cost leases to developers engaged in affordable housing projects, alongside the establishment of a fund earmarked for the acquisition of provincial and municipal land for similar purposes.


An additional proposal gaining traction involves employing temporary tax incentives to encourage real estate investors to divest properties to non-profit housing entities. The aim here is to augment the inventory of economical rental accommodations within Canada’s existing housing stock. Furthermore, the government is contemplating tax credits for investors contributing capital to affordable housing endeavors, akin to enduring programs in the United States.


Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, emphasizes the necessity to mobilize private investment, underscoring the magnitude of the challenge at hand. With housing affordability and cost of living concerns taking center stage in the political arena, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister Freeland face mounting pressure to address these issues, particularly among younger demographics, ahead of the 2025 election.


Housing expenses have emerged as a pivotal factor in the dwindling support for the ruling Liberal Party among younger Canadians, constituting a significant voting bloc instrumental in Trudeau's ascendancy. Amidst this backdrop, Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre has seized upon promises to streamline home construction processes, amassing a considerable lead in opinion polls.


According to projections by Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp., the current pace of housing development falls short of accommodating the nation’s expanding population. The shortfall underscores the imperative to take decisive action to restore affordability.


In response to the challenges faced by young Canadians aspiring for homeownership, Housing Minister Sean Fraser has indicated that the budget will address these hurdles. Suggestions include revisiting mortgage regulations to facilitate access for younger buyers, challenging the notion of a rigid 25-year amortization period for those with down payments below 20 percent.


Mike Moffatt, policy director at the Smart Prosperity Institute, advocates for tailored mortgage qualification rules to empower first-time buyers, offering a pragmatic approach without burdening the federal coffers.


Looking ahead, the budget is expected to revolutionize the utilization of federal lands for housing purposes. Carolyn Whitzman, an expert adviser, anticipates a departure from the current model of land sales towards a more flexible leasing approach, potentially unlocking a wealth of opportunities in the housing sector.


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