Unsurprisingly, housing has been a hot issue during the federal election campaign, and the real estate industry about chiming in, with RE/MAX the latest to jump into the fray and proffer advice to campaigning parties.
“I don’t believe the government should always get involved, unless there’s an economic crisis, which is not the case here,” Elton Ash, executive vice president at RE/MAX Canada, said in a missive on the company’s website. “Where should government involvement lie? In assisting developers build products and removing red tape. We need less government intervention, not more. We need less taxation, not more. A supply-side solution needs to be a collaborative effort across all three levels of government.”
The Liberal Party recently floated the idea of proscribing blind bidding, which drew the Ontario Real Estate Association’s (OREA) ire, and while RE/MAX is open to “transactional transparency,” it is against legal prohibition.
Turns out OREA and RE/MAX aren’t the only ones.
“It is critical, however, that government actions be carefully considered to ensure that they aid in solving these challenges directly and do not create a host of additional challenges. Consumer choice and consumer privacy should be paramount in shaping government policy. Federal public policy should recognize the right that consumers have to privacy, and should allow them to consent to the disclosure of personal information, instead of penalizing homebuyers and sellers. Punishing homebuyers and sellers for wanting to keep their financial decisions private for the largest transaction of their lives is a substantial overreach of the government,” said a statement from Kevin Crigger, president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.
Referring to parties pledging partial bans and levies on foreign buyers, RE/MAX also says it’s incorrect to lay blame for Canada’s meagre housing supply at their feet, pointing out that British Columbia and Ontario have non-resident taxes in place at 20% and 15%, respectively.
Re/MAX acknowledges that Canada has a housing affordability crisis and suggests that the solution could come through a national housing strategy that would prioritize growing supply. To do that, a coordinated approach between all three levels of government would be required. Moreover, the strategy should involve tax rebates and easing red tape—RE/MAX noted that in Toronto and Vancouver, it can take up to two years to get a project approved—as well as incentivizing developers to build homes that families can move into without breaking the bank that are situated near transit hubs.
But without springing into action quickly, Canada won’t just have an issue with affordability, it will have a homeownership problem, especially for younger Canadians.
“First-time home ownership has always been a struggle. There’s an argument that prices rose faster than wages, therefore we’re in a crisis. There’s currently no economic crisis,” said Ash. “In terms of what we know today, our government has staved off a market crash with responsible lending practices and by keeping the interest rate low. Federal regulators have responded responsibly in that area. The concern is that the health of the Canadian housing market doesn’t become just a political platform with up to a four-year window. This needs to be a long-term strategy.”