Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre released a housing plan on Thursday after many months of criticizing Canada's lack of affordable homes.
Dubbed the Building Homes Not Bureaucracy Act, Poilievre's plan focuses on getting municipalities to build more homes, and penalizing them for not keeping up with set targets.
Though all but guaranteed to fail in Parliament, the proposed legislation gives some insight into how Poilievre would approach Canada's ongoing housing crisis after lamenting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's actions to date.
"The problem? We aren’t building enough homes fast enough," a release from the Conservative party reads. "We built fewer homes last year than we did in 1972 when our population was half the size. Homebuilding is way down again this year, and the CMHC expects it to remain this way for the foreseeable future."
Poilievre's plan would require "big, unaffordable cities" to increase the number of homes built by 15% each year. If they fail to do so, these cities will have a percentage of their federal funding withheld, "equivalent to the percentage they missed their target by." A city that only increases its number of homes by 10%, for example, would have 5% of its federal funding withheld.
Cities that exceed their target will receive a bonus "proportional to the degree to which they exceed this target." Municipalities that greatly exceed their housing targets would receive a "super bonus."
The carrot-and-stick approach — though heavy on the stick — continued with a plan to withhold transit and infrastructure funding from cities until "sufficient high-density housing around transit stations is built and occupied." Details were not provided on how "sufficient" numbers would be determined.
Poilievre would also impose a "NIMBY penalty" on cities for "egregious cases of NIMBYism" by withholding infrastructure and transit dollars.
The plan is reminiscent of what's been rolled out in Ontario. In March of last year, Premier Doug Ford unveiled new housing legislation detailing a plan to claw back development application fees from cities that do not process development and rezoning applications at a rapid pace. And just last month, Ford announced the Building Faster Fund, a $1.5B initiative that will reward municipalities for reaching or surpassing their provincially mandated housing targets.
Municipalities have heavily criticized funding-cut approaches based on housing numbers, with Councillors all across the political spectrum emphasizing that it's not always the cities that are at fault for delaying applications, and it's not the cities that are responsible for actually getting homes built once approved.
In fact, a report released in March by the Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario found that Ontario had, at the time, 331,632 approved units, 64,199 units approved under a Ministerial Zoning Order, and 150,000 planned as-of-right units, all of which were sitting in the pipeline unbuilt. And with higher interest rates, costlier builds, and waning demand, dozens of condo projects that were expected to add several thousand homes to the province's priciest markets in the later half of 2022 alone have been delayed or cancelled.
Similarly, municipal leaders have cautioned against the vicious cycle that removing funding that goes towards transit, infrastructure, and City Planning departments — all things needed to encourage and approve new developments — could cause.
Poilievre's proposed legislation also includes the removal of GST on rental homes with below-market-value prices. This is very similar, albeit doesn't go quite as far, as the Trudeau government's plans unveiled yesterday to remove GST from all newly built rental housing.
The Conservative leader also took aim at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, outlining plans to cut bonuses and salaries, and, if needed, "fire the gatekeepers," if they are "unable to speed up approval of applications for housing programs to an average of 60 days.
On the federal government's part, Poilievre says within a year and a half of passing his proposed legislation, 15% of the government's 37,000 buildings and all appropriate federal land would be turned into housing.
Poilievre's housing plan received strong support from many industry leaders, including the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).
“We need quick and bold action on the housing front to bring us back from the dark abyss,” said RESCON President Richard Lyall. “Mr. Poilievre’s proposal would encourage cities to reach their housing targets, speed up the construction of much-needed new condos and homes, and make it easier for developers and builders to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible. Such a situation is a win-win for everyone.”