November 3, 2022 | Danny McMullen and Luke Giffen
Addressing the Growing Housing Crisis – Will Recent Legislation Hit Home?
While housing prices continue to drop as interest rates rise, the same cannot be said for rental prices. Rent has continued to skyrocket in major cities across Canada, leaving many Canadians living paycheck to paycheck (or worse). Inflationary pricing has left many looking for answers, and it seems that the federal and provincial government may be coming to the rescue. The federal government has given assent to the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act (“Prohibition Act”) while the provincial government has just recently introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act (“Homes Act”). With this, the government hopes to quell the growing issues with housing in our country. Let’s take a closer look at how these pieces of legislation will impact the average Canadian.
At The Federal Level
In the last election, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party ran partially on a platform of taxing foreign buyers who wished to speculate by purchasing property in Canada. This wasn’t an uncommon platform, as both the Conservative Party and New Democrat Party both also had a general intent to either limit or outright stop foreign purchase to help Canadians looking to purchase a home. In theory, by cutting out the international demand for investment properties, this would reduce prices for buying a home. Assented on June 23, 2022, the Prohibition Act will come into force January 1, 2023. Most importantly, it touches on the following:
- It does not apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents;
- It does apply to non-Canadians directly or indirectly purchasing residential property in Canada for a period of two years;
- The prohibition applies to residential property including detached houses as well as semi-detached houses, condominium units, or other similar premises: and
- If a non-Canadian is found to be in non-compliance or a Canadian is helping circumvent the Prohibition Act, there are penalties.
This will come into force at a time when Canadians truly need some sort of respite from the monetary hardships we’ve been collectively taking for since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Critics like the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) have questioned the efficacy of this legislation, pointing to British Columbia’s Foreign Buyer Tax as an example. This tax, CREA said, seemed to have a small and temporary effect on the real estate market and its affordability. It remains to be seen whether the Prohibition Act will have a stronger result seeing as it is an outright prohibition, rather than simply a tax.
At the Provincial Level
Interestingly, on October 25, 2022, merely one day after the municipal elections concluded, Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario pushed forward their response to the housing crisis in the Homes Act previously mentioned above. This bill hopes to cut through the red tape and get homes built for Ontarians that need it most. Indeed, the bill hopes to build 1,500,000 homes over the next 10 years. Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, noted that as it stands, finding a home is simply “too challenging.” The Homes Act seeks to help alleviate these problems by:
- Increasing the tax on non-resident speculation from 20 per cent to 25 per cent; and
- Freezing and reducing government charges to spur new home construction and reduce the costs of housing.
The Ford administration seems extremely confident that this plan will help Canadians, but some of the messaging being put forward may be too ambiguous to see realistic change. Phrasing like “creating a new attainable housing program” and “increasing consumer protection measures” offer vague solutions to real problems we are facing right now. However, as Gideon Bell notes, there are some immediate dividends we should see. One such benefit is that now there will be no zoning by-law amendment requirement to add residential units to a single lot. This has the double benefit of increasing housing availability while removing red-tape for property investors. Overall, these changes are sweeping, ambitious, and bold. Now we will just wait and see how they play out.
This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please reach out to us and we’ll provide assistance based on your personal situation.
 The Canadian Real Estate Association, accessed October 28, 2022 at “https://news2me.crea.ca/2022/september-2022/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-prohibition-on-the-purchase-of-residential-property-by-non-canadians/
 “Ontario Taking Bold Action to Build More Homes,” accessed October 28, 2022 at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1002423/ontario-taking-bold-action-to-build-more-homes
 Gideon Bell, LinkedIn, accessed October 28, 2022 at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6991161760183455744/