The new minority Liberal government in Ottawa wants to take action on housing and homelessness, but this will depend on finding common ground with the smaller opposition parties, re-elected MP Adam Vaughan says.
“It depends on how the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP make up their leadership teams in the new House of Commons,” Vaughan, fresh from a solid victory in Toronto’s Spadina-Fort York riding, told Toronto Storeys.
“I hope people will be constructive and will work with us. It needs to get through to everybody that we’re all working for the Canadian people. It’s a collaborative process.”
Vaughan, a former Toronto city councillor and broadcast journalist, said the Liberals’ Oct. 21 election victory is also a win for the National Housing Strategy released in 2017, which aims to address affordability, remove 530,000 Canadian families from housing need and reduce homelessness by 50 per cent by 2027.
People should realize the significance of the strategy, Vaughan said. “It’s a $55 billion program [over 10 years],” he said.
During the campaign, housing and affordability were top issues for the Greater Toronto Area, where home prices are perpetually high and there is short supply of rental units. Vaughan said additions and fine tuning to the 2017 housing strategy will help.
“For the first time we’re taking a regional approach to mortgages,” he said. The Liberals promised in the campaign to increase the threshold for buyers in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria using the First Time Home Buyers Incentive brought in by the last federal budget.
The program allows qualified buyers to apply for interest-free loans from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on properties selling for nearly $500,000, but for the GTA and BC regions this would be boosted to nearly $800,000, he said.
“The other measure is the speculation tax,” Vaughan said. The Liberals have proposed a 1 per cent foreign buyers’ tax, modeled on an existing 20 per cent tax in British Columbia and a 15 per cent tax brought in under Ontario’s previous Liberal government.
Both measures aim to deter speculators from driving up home prices. “We need foreign capital in the housing market, but it should be used for housing that Canadians will live in, not just to charge people rent,” Vaughan said.
The third measure that will help affordability is a plan to offer up to $40,000 interest free for people to upgrade their homes. “Not only is it good for climate change, it will increase the value of peoples’ homes,” Vaughan said.
It’s also important for Canadians to take note of housing initiatives to help urban Indigenous people, Vaughan said: “It’s not always obvious in big cities like Toronto, but homelessness is an Indigenous issue and our plan will help.”