Poilievre releases housing plan he says will ‘build homes, not bureaucracy’

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Thursday released a housing plan that he said would speed up the construction of new homes in Canada, as the country faces a severe shortage of affordable places to live.

After eight years in government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have failed to stimulate enough homebuilding to meet demand — a situation that has left young people increasingly disillusioned about their financial futures, Poilievre said.

The Conservative leader said Trudeau and the federal NDP have plunged the country into “housing hell.” He said that the government led by Poilievre would try to fix the matter through a carrot and stick approach.

Poilievre said he would introduce a private member’s bill to Parliament on Monday, when the House of Commons returns from its summer recess.

While the ‘Build Houses, Not Bureaucracy’ bill is unlikely to become law, it does indicate what the Conservative leader wants to do about the issue.

A photo of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre in Vancouver during a housing announcement.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre attends a press conference in Vancouver. BC on September 14, 2023. (Ethan Cairns/The Canadian Press)

A key feature of the Poilievre Plan is the policy that links federal funding to housing starts.

Under his proposal, cities would have to increase the number of homes built by 15 percent each year — a rate that Poilievre said could ease the housing crisis.

Local governments that fail to meet that goal will see their federal grants withheld at a proportional rate, Poilievre said.

Under Poilievre’s proposal, a city that increases the number of homes built by just 10 percent in a given year would see 5 percent of its federal funding withheld or clawed back.

If municipalities build more than the 15 percent target, they will receive a “building bonus,” he said.

Watch: Poilievre criticizes PM on housing and says Trudeau is ‘funding gatekeepers’

Poilievre criticizes PM on housing, says Trudeau ‘funds gatekeepers’

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s housing plans on Thursday, saying the Liberal government’s “inflationary deficits” and “taxes and bureaucracy” are holding back the construction of new homes.

“More house building, more money. Less house building, less money. It’s going to be a pretty predictable mathematical equation,” Poilievre said.

“What is Justin Trudeau doing? He’s funding the gatekeepers. We don’t need to build more bureaucracy.”

Poilievre’s program is no different from the government’s existing housing accelerator fund — except that Ottawa is not proposing to withhold money from municipalities that are slow to approve housing.

Under the Liberal plan — designed to reward cities that build more homes faster by removing roadblocks to construction — local governments must apply for the funding; They don’t get money automatically.

Proposed housing plan for Poilievre

  • Link federal funding to municipalities to the number of housing starts
  • Offering “big bonuses” to municipalities that exceed the goal of building 15 percent more homes each year. Recovering funds from municipalities that do not achieve this goal.
  • Implementation of a “NIMBY” fine on municipalities that prevent construction due to “scandalous” opposition from local residents.
  • Requesting the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to expedite project financing approval and threatening to withhold bonuses from CMHC employees if they fail to do so.
  • Eliminate the goods and services tax on affordable housing to stimulate development.
  • Sell ​​15 percent of federally owned buildings so the land can be used to build affordable homes.

Poilievre mocked the accelerator fund (“it sounds like a slowdown fund”) because the program was announced in the 2022 budget but the first funding was committed only about 18 months later, on Wednesday, in London, Ont.

Poilievre’s plan would also withhold transportation and infrastructure funding from cities that do not mandate the construction of high-density housing around transit stations.

Poilievre made his announcement Thursday on barren land near a busy transit station in Vancouver.

“Just stop for a moment. What do you see here?” Poilievre said as he pointed to the parking lot behind him. “You see a transit station. Where is the housing?”

He said there should be high-rise buildings dotting the sky around a place like this so that low-income families, students and the elderly can live in affordable homes near transportation stations.

Poilievre also threatens to impose what he calls a “NIMBY penalty” on municipalities that deny housing due to “scandalous” complaints from residents attributed to the “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) philosophy.

New home construction in the United States and Canada and home renovations due to the coronavirus have pushed lumber prices to record levels.
The governors’ plan would tie federal funding to municipalities to housing starts. (Ryan Remiurs/The Canadian Press)

Residents are known to strongly resist the construction of high-density housing in their neighborhoods. This has frustrated efforts to build new homes in more established areas of Canada’s major cities.

Poilievre also had words for public servants at CMHC, the federal agency that often approves project financing and mortgage financing.

He said that if CMHC unnecessarily delayed approval of housing funding, a Conservative government led by him would withhold staff bonuses.

“The Trudeau government has inflated the bureaucracy at CMHC, paying millions of dollars in bonuses to the same bureaucrats who helped double the cost of housing,” Poilievre said.

“I will reduce all of their bonuses and they will take pay cuts unless they meet the goal of being approved for affordable housing financing within 60 days.”

Poilievre is also calling for eliminating the federal goods and services tax on affordable housing complexes to stimulate development. The federal Liberals first introduced the policy at the 2015 federal election before abandoning the commitment in 2017.

The federal government on Thursday said it would remove goods and services tax on construction of new rental apartments with immediate effect.

Trudeau said he hopes provinces will follow suit by dropping the PST tax in their jurisdictions — a tax break that could encourage builders to prioritize building new apartments over condos.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the construction site of an affordable housing project in London, Ontario.  On Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the construction site of an affordable housing project in London, Ontario. On Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Nicole Osborne/The Canadian Press)

“This is the time to step up,” the prime minister told reporters at a post-caucus news conference in London, Ontario.

Trudeau said the government’s current build-to-rent financing initiative, which provides low-cost loans for purpose-built residential buildings, will continue.

The program has encouraged the construction of 39,682 new units since its launch in 2017, according to CMHC data.

Trudeau also promoted the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, a savings account that allows buyers to save up to $40,000 to purchase a home and withdraw it without any taxes due on potential investment gains.

The program was promised in the 2021 federal election campaign, but financial institutions only recently began making these accounts available.

“There is no silver bullet,” Trudeau said. “Housing is an enormous challenge and even a crisis, but it is a crisis Canada has solved before, and it is a crisis we will solve again by working together.”

With Poilievre’s popularity surging in opinion polls after spending the summer focusing on affordability issues, the Liberal government is trying to roll out its own plan to respond to voters’ concerns about the cost of living.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the government had little to learn from Poilievre on the housing issue.

He said some of the policies proposed by the opposition leader are already being implemented by Ottawa.

“Let’s not pretend we’re playing after the Conservatives who are finally starting to talk about the things we’ve actively campaigned on over the last two elections,” Fraser said at a recent cabinet meeting in Charlottetown.

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