Over the last few years it has become very clear that the run up in real estate prices in Canada – and in major urban centres like Vancouver and Toronto in particular – has caused a housing affordability crisis.  While homeowners have benefited from the tremendous increase in average house price, renters and the next generation of potential homeowners have found it very difficult to afford a home that suits their needs.

Housing affordability has become one of the biggest topics in Canada and as such, it is no surprise that the latest Federal budget, Budget 2024, Fairness for Every Generation, contains a number of measures focused on real estate affordability.

Let’s look at Budget 2024 from a real estate perspective to see what’s included, what seems like a good idea, and what may miss the mark entirely.

On one hand…

The government has described Budget 2024 as a budget that “takes bold action to build more homes…and will grow the economy in a way that’s shared by all.”  Those are welcome words and given we’ve seen a number of housing announcements in recent weeks, including Canada’s Housing Plan, which was released on Friday, April 12, 2024, it’s clear that the federal government knows housing affordability is a real issue.

Budget 2024 details an ambitious set of housing initiatives aimed at tackling the housing crisis through increasing housing supply, helping homebuyers and renters, and supporting innovative solutions for builders.  That means we’re gonna fix this, right?  Hold on a moment.

…but on the other hand.

While the new initiatives focused on increasing housing supply are absolutely welcome, they come hand in hand with a number of new tax measures that could negatively affect housing supply and affordability.

Housing is a complex issue, so it’s not particularly surprising that some aspects of the budget designed to help other parts of the economy have ripple effects on housing affordability, but it is disappointing to see that the Federal government is diminishing the impact of new initiatives with new tax measures.

Is it one step forward and one step back, or does Budget 2024 actually look like it will help with housing affordability overall?  Let’s go through the bits of the budget that impact real estate along with our take on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Capital Gains Tax Inclusion Rate

The government is increasing the inclusion rate on capital gains realized annually above $250,000 by individuals and on all capital gains realized by corporations and trusts from one-half to two-thirds. Individuals will continue to pay tax on 50 per cent of any capital gains up to $250,000 per year. The new rules will apply to capital gains realized on or after June 25, 2024.  Selling your principal residence will continue to be exempt from capital gains taxation.

Good or Bad?  This is potentially bad news for housing affordability, as in some cases, the increased capital gains will make it more expensive to increase supply.  For example, hiking the capital gains tax could increase the costs of converting underused commercial property into new housing.

Increase in Home Buyers’ Plan Limit

The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) limit will increase from $35,000 to $60,000 for an individual or $120,000 for a couple, allowing first-time homebuyers to withdraw more from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) for down payments, benefiting from the tax advantages of RRSP contributions.

Canadians withdrawing from their HBP between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2025, will benefit from an extended repayment grace period, now up to five years, allowing them to better manage mortgage payments.

Good or Bad?  This is good news for housing affordability in the sense that it will make it easier for potential home purchasers to put down a larger downpayment and allow them more time to repay the withdrawal.  At the same time, an initiative that increases demand for real estate by adding more buyers to the mix, is not particularly helpful as supply remains the biggest aspect pushing prices up.

Extended Mortgage Amortization Periods

The budget will introduce a provision for 30-year mortgage amortizations for first-time homebuyers purchasing newly built homes, starting August 1, 2024. This extension aims to make monthly mortgage payments more manageable.

Good or Bad?  Again, this is a mixed bag when it comes to housing affordability.  Yes, this is good news for buyers of newly built homes, as they can have lower monthly mortgage payments due to a longer amortization period.  At the same time, this is an initiative that increases demand for real estate by making it more affordable for buyers without actually addressing the supply side.

Permanent Amortization Relief

Enhancements to the Canadian Mortgage Charter will include permanent amortization relief for existing homeowners meeting specific criteria, thus allowing them to reduce their monthly mortgage payments as needed.

Good or Bad?  This is good news for housing affordability for specific homeowners, though it doesn’t increase supply.  In essence, it seems like it will make things easier for certain types of homeowners in specific situations, likely at the expense of their lender.  While it may be more of a shifting of costs, we’re all for anything that makes it more affordable for homeowners, so we’ll call this one a win.

Housing Accelerator Fund Enhancement

An additional $400 million will be added to the Housing Accelerator Fund, raising its total to $4.4 billion, aiming to fast-track the construction of an additional 12,000 new homes over the next three years.

Good or Bad?  This is good news for housing affordability, with the caveat that a fund has to be disbursed and used in order for the results to be achieved.  There are a lot of examples of the Housing Accelerator Fund being disbursed to municipalities and housing projects announced as a result, but having the money and people moving in are very different things.  We’ll also point out that while $400 million is a lot of money, it’s about a 9% increase to the existing fund, so not a game changer.

Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund

A new $6 billion fund will support the construction and upgrading of essential housing infrastructure to facilitate more homebuilding activities. The government is looking to partner with provinces to deliver this funding, in addition to working directly with municipalities.

Good or Bad?  This is definitely good news for housing affordability, as one of the under recognized challenges with building new housing supply is essential housing infrastructure is also required.  Aspects such as water and wastewater systems, roads and bridges, electrical infrastructure all need to be in place at the appropriate level in order for these new homes to actually be livable.

Support for Renters

New measures for renters include launching a new $15 million Tenant Protection Fund, creating a new Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights, and making sure renters get credit for on-time rent payments.

Good or Bad?  This is bad news for housing affordability from our perspective.  We say that because it’s focusing on things that are not core challenges with renting in Canada.  Within Ontario, our Landlord and Tenant Board is fundamentally broken and it causes tremendous hardship for both tenants and landlords when the other side is acting in bad faith.  We see zero likelihood in the feasibility of renters getting credit for on-time rental payment, as the rental market is comprised of many, individual landlords and tenants and the reporting requirements would be near impossible.

Making Your Home Cheaper to Heat and Easier on the Environment

To help Canadians lower monthly home heating costs, the government is reinvesting $903.5 million into a new Canada Greener Homes Affordability Program to support energy efficient retrofits for homeowners and renters with low- to median-incomes.

Good or Bad?  We’d say this is good news, albeit on a very limited level.  It doesn’t meaningfully impact housing affordability to lower utilities cost, but it can’t hurt.

Combatting Mortgage Fraud

Government will be consulting with the mortgage industry on making a tool available through the Canada Revenue Agency to verify borrower income for mortgages.

Good or Bad?  It’s just a commitment to consult, so it’s hard to say how this will look or if anything will come of it.  Despite that, we’d say that a tool that reduces mortgage fraud – and therefore reduces purchases and demand – is a good thing.

Investing in New Approaches to Homebuilding

Government is earmarking $50 million through Canada’s regional development agencies to support innovative housing projects, including those in modular housing, automation, and robotics.

Good or Bad?  This is a good thing, but the amount seems very low and we’re not holding our breath it will result in meaningful innovation.

Providing Low-Cost Loans to Prefabricated Housing Projects

Earmarking at least $500 million in low-cost financing is to be made available through the program for new apartments that use prefabricated or innovative homebuilding techniques.

Good or Bad?  It’s a step in the right direction in that it makes it more affordable for builders or developers to use new approaches to building, but will these savings be passed on to buyers or make more projects complete than would otherwise happen?  Time will tell!

Offering Low-Cost Financing for Homeowners to Add Additional Suites

Proposing a new Canada Secondary Suite Loan Program, delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, will enable homeowners to access up to $40,000 in low-interest loans to add a secondary suite to their homes.

Good or Bad?  Our perspective on this is that it is a welcome addition that encourages adding secondary suites, but we predict a limited uptake from home owners and no meaningful increase in housing supply.

Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance Increase

The federal government is increasing the post-tax Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance from 4% to 10% for purpose-built rentals. This will act as a major incentive for the construction of a new supply of purpose-build rentals.

Good or Bad?  This one’s easy – it’s a good thing!  We continue to suffer from a lack of purpose-built rentals in Toronto and the GTA and we need the full gamut of affordable housing – both for owning and renting – in order for our cities to thrive.

That’s it?

There are few additional measures that the Federal government has included in Budget 2024 that are worth mentioning.

  • The government intends to restrict the purchase and acquisition of existing single-family homes by large corporate investors. The government will consult in the coming months and provide further details in the 2024 Fall Economic Statement. We’ve seen issues in the US with large corporate investors buying up housing stock and thereby driving up real estate prices, so this is a good area to consult on before Canada sees a similar situation.
  • The government is also considering introducing a new tax on residentially zoned vacant land and will launch consultations later this year. We’re very much against this idea, as hiking taxes on vacant lands zoned for residential is a risky measure that may result in costs passed on to new home buyers.
  • The government intends to establish a subsidiary of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to deliver flood reinsurance. While not directly impacting overall housing affordability, this is a good initiative as climate change is definitely making insurance and specifically flooding a growing concern.

All in all, a lot of measures in Budget 2024 designed to help with housing affordability in Canada.

While we are in favour of a number of the initiatives in the budget, we do feel like the Federal government has missed the market on their focus in a number of ways.  While some may have limited impact, others may in fact reduce the overall effectiveness of the more impactful measures.

The new taxation measures are likely to make certain types of investment in housing less appealing and that is something we need to avoid if we’re to make housing more affordable for the next generation.

If you like talking politics, budgets and the economy – and you’re looking to buy or sell real estate – then we should really hang out.  Get in touch with us and we’ll make it happen!