What solutions do experts propose for addressing Canada's housing supply crisis?

What solutions do experts propose for addressing Canada's housing supply crisis?

Canada is currently grappling with a shortage of housing supply, prompting discussions on how governments can tackle this issue. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has estimated that an additional 3.5 million housing units will be required by 2030, alongside the projected 2.3 million units, to achieve affordable housing for all Canadians.

To shed light on potential solutions, a recent panel hosted by the Empire Club of Canada and sponsored by Canadian Mortgage Trends brought together industry experts. Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), Douglas Porter, Chief Economist at BMO, and Lauren van den Berg, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada (MPC), shared insights and proposals.

Before exploring solutions, the panel acknowledged some reasons behind the inadequate housing supply. Porter noted that certain provincial governments, like Ontario, have set ambitious goals that are not currently feasible due to a shortage of skilled labor. He emphasized the need to train more carpenters, plumbers, and electricians to address the labor shortage effectively.

Hudak highlighted the importance of revising the immigration process, as the current system favors individuals with university degrees and overlooks skilled tradespeople. He suggested modifying the points system to recognize and reward skilled trades, as they play a crucial role in building homes.

Additionally, Hudak emphasized the role of government-owned land in addressing the housing shortage. He proposed that governments allocate under-utilized land for housing development, pointing out that the government is the largest landowner in Ontario. Utilizing such land could potentially create significant housing opportunities.

Van den Berg called for the establishment of a permanent national housing council comprising industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and decision-makers from all levels of government. This council would provide a consistent platform to address housing issues and ensure continuity despite changes in political leadership.

Porter suggested exploring the conversion of office buildings into residential units, where feasible, as a means of utilizing existing infrastructure to meet housing demand. Although certain limitations exist, he estimated that approximately 30% of current office space could potentially be repurposed for residential use.

The panelists emphasized the need for governments to prioritize long-term solutions over short-term policies, such as foreign buyer bans or vacant home taxes. They encouraged a focus on removing outdated bylaws and streamlining the process for housing development to increase supply.

Despite the challenges, the panelists expressed optimism about Canada's housing market and the belief in homeownership among Canadians. Hudak highlighted the return of buyers to the market and increased cases of multiple offers, indicating underlying demand. Van den Berg emphasized MPC's commitment to advocating for measures that improve affordability and remove barriers to homeownership.

Overall, the panel highlighted the importance of addressing the housing supply crisis through a multi-faceted approach involving skill development, immigration reforms, effective land utilization, and long-term planning.