A review of homeownership activity on Parliament Hill over the past 12 months seems to indicate one thing: 2019 was the year of the REALTOR®.
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) hit the ground running in 2019 after closing out 2018 with a committee appearance from CEO Michael Bourque during pre-budget consultations and an impressive PAC Days where 350 members of the REALTOR® community conducted meetings with more than 180 Members of Parliament.
The collective effort culminated in the tabling of Budget 2019 in March. The budget included an entire chapter on housing which included support for first-time home buyers and covered two measures intended to help make homeownership more affordable:
- The introduction of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI), a program giving eligible buyers the ability to lower their borrowing costs by sharing the cost of buying a home with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The incentive provides funding of 5% of the home purchase price on existing homes, or either 5% or 10% for a new build; and
- The modernization of the Home Buyers’ Plan through an increase of the withdrawal limit from buyers’ RRSPs to $35,000, while also expanding the eligibility criteria to individuals experiencing the breakdown of a marriage or common-law partnership—a longtime ask from REALTORS®.
In addition to these two budget wins, the federal government also conceded it continues to closely monitor the effects of the stress test for insured mortgages and is open to adjusting it to support access to housing.
With Budget 2019 tabled, our Federal Affairs team continued to push for confirmation of its homeownership elements. Bourque appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in May as they considered Bill C-97, the budget implementation act. While in June, CREA President Jason Stephen discussed homeownership measures included in the same bill during a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Ahead of Federal Election 2019, we rolled out a homeownership-focused campaign. In the nation’s capital, staff met with major parties as they prepared their electoral platforms, while in constituencies across the country, membership was called upon to share REAL Ideas through the launch of the REALTOR® Resource Hub. The site offered REALTOR® recommendations to discuss with candidates, social media shareables and a list of party platform commitments.
We also encouraged boards and associations to meet their local candidates by organizing non-partisan events, such as town halls, with bursaries provided to help cover costs. In total, 16 boards and associations organized 31 events, spanning 42 ridings.
At PAC Days 2019, we partnered with stakeholders across the housing continuum to host a national housing debate that was broadcast by CPAC. Candidates included the Liberals’ Adam Vaughan, the Conservatives’ Pierre Poilievre, Bloc Québécois’ Geneviève Nadeau, the NDP’s Angella MacEwen and the Green Party’s Angela Keller-Herzog.
The results of REALTOR® advocacy approaches were obvious, as every major party committed to measures that would make homeownership more affordable for Canadians:
- The Liberals promised to expand the FTHBI to provide more help to communities in the greater Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria regions by allowing homes valued at up to $789,000 to qualify.
- The Conservatives committed to reintroducing 30-year amortization periods on insured mortgages for first-time buyers, as well as fixing the mortgage stress test and removing it for mortgage renewals.
- The NDP proposed doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500 and reintroducing 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first-time buyers.
- The Bloc Québécois said they would modify the FTHBI to facilitate the purchase of an existing home at the same level as a new home, with the objective of avoiding urban sprawl.
For a lot of hardworking Canadians, buying a house right now seems impossible. That’s why we created the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive – and why we’ll keep working together to help make home ownership a reality for your family. pic.twitter.com/hH2gj98KSk— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 12, 2019
Justin Trudeau’s mortgage stress test makes it harder for first-time homebuyers buy a home. Hardworking Canadians shouldn’t be squeezed out of the market. @AndrewScheer will help first-time homebuyers and homeowners get ahead!#cdnpoli #elxn43 pic.twitter.com/92ib3g0IZr— Conservative Party (@CPC_HQ) September 23, 2019
Canadians face a #HousingCrisis while the Liberals spend billions in corporate tax giveaways & billions more on a pipeline. PM Trudeau calls the situation a crisis – it’s time he start acting like it is.— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) January 21, 2019
Today we announce our plan to start fixing it: https://t.co/Mk0nsUddW9 pic.twitter.com/9roMpmhOPU
Following the election, Governor General Julie Payette delivered the government’s agenda-setting Speech from the Throne, which again committed to helping first-time home buyers.
One week later, Prime Minister Trudeau released ministerial mandate letters outlining top priorities for each member of his Cabinet.
In the Minister of Finance’s mandate letter, it was made obvious REALTORS® were heard loud and clear, as the Prime Minister instructed him to “Review and consider recommendations from financial agencies related to making the borrower stress test more dynamic.” This signaled the government better understands the obstacles facing home buyers and is committed to making it easier for Canadians to buy their first home.
It has been a busy year, but thanks to the efforts of the REALTOR® community, 2019 saw historic developments for homeownership policy and more promised for the future. There remains considerable work ahead, but potential home buyers can confidently say they are better off than they were a year ago.