Housing policy news: September 2023

October 3, 2023

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:


  • CMHC reports that 3.5 million homes will be needed to restore affordability 

    The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released an update to its Supply Gaps Estimate report of last year. The report estimates how many new homes need to be built in Canada by 2030 to restore housing affordability to 2004 levels. Last year, CMHC estimated that 3.5 million homes will still be needed, over and above what is already projected to be built by 2030. In its update, CMHC found that the gap this year is still 3.5 million homes.

  • The federal government introduces Bill C-56 to bolster rental housing construction  

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of measures to increase the supply of rental housing and tackle inflation on food prices. A core measure proposed is the removal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on new rental construction. Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act, was tabled by the Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and passed its first reading at Parliament on September 21. The bill increases the GST rental rebate from 36% to 100% to incentivize the construction of apartment buildings, student housing and senior residences. According to the Department of Finance Canada, this will provide homebuilders with a $25,000 tax relief on apartments valued at $500,000, and the initiative is expected to cost $4.5 billion between now and 2029. The rebate will be available to buildings with at least 4 apartments or 10 private rooms, as long as at least 90% of the units are used for long-term rental. The federal government has called on all provincial governments to apply the exemption to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

  • The federal government starts conditional allocation of the Housing Accelerator Fund

    On September 13, London, Ontario became the first municipality to secure $74 million from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund, to speed up the development of 2,000 housing units over the next three years, on top of the 9,000 already planned. The funding is flexible, and London’s mayor indicated it might be used for increasing water and sewage capacity, incentivizing private landowners to convert office space into residences, create low barrier service hubs, and build 600 supportive housing units.   

    The agreement is the first of many that require municipalities to end exclusionary zoning in order to receive the funds. At the end of August, the City of London voted to increase density in residential areas without the need for re-zoning, and similar conditions were laid out in letters sent by the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities to the cities of Calgary, Brampton, and Halifax. Applications are being reviewed for Windsor and Saskatoon.  



  • New regulations in effect for Halifax’s short-term rentals

    New land-use regulations voted at Halifax Regional Council in February came into effect on September 1st. In residential zones, single room and entire unit short-term rentals are now only permitted if the owner lives in the home. Basement apartments and backyard suites may not be rented for fewer than 28 days. The objective of these regulations is to allow for more rental accommodation in the Halifax market.  



  • City of Toronto releases annual update on progress toward the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan

    On September 21, the City of Toronto shared a progress report regarding its housing action plan. The implementation of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan has so far allowed the completion of 1,082 affordable and supportive homes for those experiencing homelessness and expediting approvals for 3,340 new homes. Furthermore, the City has committed $46 million in funding through the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) program, to help non-profit organizations acquire and secure 260 affordable rental homes. Other progress includes the administration of 3,300 housing benefits to help individuals maintain their current homes and the launching of new digital dashboards to help track accountability and transparency.  


  • New report finds that homelessness in Quebec has increased by 44% since 2018 

    According to a recent report from Quebec’s Health Department, visible homelessness increased by 44% across the province between 2018 and 2022. The survey counted close to 10,000 people living on the streets or in shelters, half of which were in Montreal. However, the report also finds that the proportion of people experiencing homelessness in Montreal is in decline, and the increase in homelessness felt across the province is happening around secondary cities and in rural areas. While the report does not account for hidden homelessness, it recognizes that its incidence might be higher than visible homelessness. During the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) Summit on Homelessness, the Minister of Social Services Lionel Carmant announced that a new homelessness count would take place in 2024 and promised an additional $15 million to fund emergency shelters. Quebec Mayor Bruno Marchand, along with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and several community organizations, stated that this pledge was not enough to address the homelessness crisis happening in Quebec.  



  • Affordable housing remains a top issue ahead of Manitoba’s provincial election 

    Manitobans will be heading to the polls on October 3rd for the province’s general election, and affordable housing remains a top issue for 20% of voters.  

    The NDP’s pledge for housing in Manitoba includes bringing the renters’ tax credit from $525 to $700, limiting landlord’s ability to apply for above-guideline rent increases, and developing a regulatory process to ensure affordability is maintained when a non-profit or co-operative tries to sell buildings that were designed to be affordable housing. Meanwhile, the PC’s housing platform focuses on removing land transfer taxes for first-time homeowners, helping senior homeowners defer their property taxes and investing in housing developments for homeless veterans.  


  • Calgary City Council approves new housing strategy 

    Between September 14-16, the City of Calgary held public hearings and debated on the recommendations issued in June by the Housing and Affordability Task Force. More than 150 people signed up to depute at City Council, and a majority of written submissions urged the municipal government to adopt all of the Task Force’s recommendations. One of the more controversial recommendations is a proposal for blanket rezoning citywide to create more density and housing diversity. Pressure mounted after the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser sent a letter to the City of Calgary, requesting the adoption of the proposed new zoning designations in order for the City to receive funding from the Housing Accelerator Fund. Evidence from the City’s 2023 Housing Needs Assessment was also echoed during the deliberations, citing how the housing crisis is affecting a wide range of Calgarians, with 1 in 5 households who cannot afford their housing costs. At the conclusion of the 3-day meeting, Council voted 12-3 for the adoption of the City’s new housing strategy, “Home is Here.” The strategy aims to build 4,000 new homes every year, of which 75% would be non-market affordable housing units. In addition to zoning changes that remain to be discussed later this year, the amended strategy proposes to increase affordable supply through incentives for the development of secondary suites and transferring publicly-owned land for non-profit housing and emergency shelters. 

British Columbia

  • The provincial government reveals more details of pilot program to incentivize secondary suites 

    During a news conference on September 11, B.C. Premier David Eby unveiled details of the province’s Secondary Suite Incentive Program, voted in the 2023 budget. This initiative aims to finance the construction of 3,000 secondary suites through forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to cover 50% of construction costs. Rent for these secondary suites must be priced below market rates for five years, and secondary units cannot be rented to immediate family members. However, the $120 million incentive program is geared toward higher income homeowners, with stipulations such as providing enough equity as loan security, property value worth more than $2 million, and household income of over $209,000.  

    At the same news conference, the province’s Premier also announced the launch of the Single Housing Application Service (SHAS), a one-stop shop to expedite housing permit applications and eliminate the need for multiple applications across different ministries. The SHAS will be administered through staff of the Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, who will act as a single point of contact for permitting decisions. The province has also promised $61 million in funding to help municipalities accelerate development application approvals and meet the new provincial zoning requirements to be revealed later this fall.

  • Victoria allocates Airbnb tax funds to build affordable rentals for hospitality workers 

    On September 7, Victoria City Council voted to allocate $2.5 million from revenues collected through taxation on online short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb, to fund an affordable workforce housing project destined to house hospitality workers. The project will be developed by the Greater Victoria Housing Society for a total of $18 million, most of which will be funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Other municipalities in B.C. have implemented similar measures to preserve their rental housing stock against the conversion of apartments into tourist accommodation. A study from McGill University shows that short-term rentals eat up 19% of the available rental housing stock in the province and contribute to a 16% increase in rent prices. Fairbnb is calling for stronger legislation on short-term rentals, to ensure they remain a form of home-sharing and proposes to establish a province-wide registry to ensure transparency and accountability.  
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