What REALTORS® can do to help accelerate housing affordability

Written by Michael Bourque, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

It’s no coincidence that CREA’s inaugural REALTORS Care® Week is wrapping up on National Housing Day. National Housing Day is a time to reflect on the importance of safe and affordable housing to successful lives and communities and to recognize that far too many Canadians face obstacles to achieving this basic human need. Since REALTORS® are at the frontline of helping people achieve their housing needs—whether it’s finding a home to rent or own—it just makes sense that we should engage in this important conversation.

To this end, I sat down with Michel Tremblay, Senior Vice-President of Policy and Innovation at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), earlier this month to ask him questions on behalf of the REALTOR® community about Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy, CMHC’s big goal for 2030, and how REALTORS® can get involved.

Through my conversation with Michel, it became clear that our organizations share an interest in addressing housing affordability and breaking down barriers to increased supply of new homes, for the benefit of the entire housing spectrum. 

So what can REALTORS® do to help move the needle on these important issues? Michel had the following suggestions as to ways that REALTORS® can take advantage of their influence within their communities and make a difference:

  • Finding tenants for clients’ rental properties is a key area of business for many REALTORS® and a growing number of rentals can be found on REALTOR.ca. REALTORS® can acknowledge that homeownership is not necessarily the best housing solution for everyone and that renting a home is an equally acceptable and, in some cases, preferred option for many households. With this in mind, REALTORS® can help fight the unfair, negative stigma that some people hold against renters and rental properties by being publicly supportive of the rental market alongside the homeowner market. As Michel put it, “a home is a home; a roof is a roof.”
  • REALTORS® can also help fight “NIMBYism” (the not-in-my-backyard mentality) relating to affordable housing by spreading the word about its positive impacts on individuals and families in housing need as well as our communities at large. For example, research by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis has shown “that investment in affordable housing not only provides shelter to those who cannot afford market rents but also offers billions of dollars in socio-economic benefits.”[1]
  • Similarly, REALTORS® can be supportive of increased densification in their communities. As CMHC CEO Evan Siddall has said, “Urban sprawl and the construction of large homes on large lots come at high costs not only for the home buyer, but for governments, the environment and our society.”[2]

Michel provided a lot of great food for thought for REALTORS Care® Week and beyond. As I told him, CREA and the REALTOR® community look forward to continuing our relationship with CMHC, working together to move the National Housing Strategy along and finding more ways to do our part to help achieve housing affordability for all Canadians.

Editor’s Note: CMHC will be hosting their second National Housing Conference May 12-13, 2020, at the Westin Ottawa. If you support their aspirational goal of ensuring everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that meets their needs, be sure to mark your calendar and visit their website to sign up to receive further updates.

[1] https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/why-investing-in-community-housing-can-be-worth-every-penny-and-more-to-the-economy

[2] https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/media-newsroom/speeches/2018/takes-a-village-build-a-city-housing-affordability-shared-responsibility

Prior to joining the Canadian Real Estate Association, Michael was President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in government, public affairs and government relations, including more than 10 years as an association CEO. Michael is focused on the continuing success of REALTOR.ca and member technology, federal advocacy and the reputation and public understanding of REALTORS® and the value they provide to property owners, buyers and sellers.

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