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A Primer on Government Policy and House in Canada

Government Policy and the Housing Crisis: An Ongoing Concern

Everyday Canadians are facing troubling situations of poverty, a failing economy, and Government Policies that are directly deepening the housing crisis in Canada.  These government policies are deeply troubling, often overlooked in the media.



Many people are financially strapped, unable to fight the large legal battles at hand.


As we care for our loved ones in our families, churches, workplaces, and communities, it's a struggle to keep up with the costs, time, and energy to handle it all. We just can't afford it.


On top of that, there are new rules we struggle to understand regarding property taxes, income taxes, and increased costs everywhere we turn. It's overwhelming, and we find ourselves questioning things when reading articles, just like you.


The following article is an attempt to make the reader aware of several of the Government policies that are currently affecting the availability and affordability of housing in Canada.

 

Concerning for Homeowners, meant to target foreign landlords:

For Homeowners:

I don’t own a home but rent, and I am confused by the wording, methods and penalties of this. The following quotes stand out to me:

 

“Government of Canada extends deadline for homeowners to file their Underused Housing Tax return” by Canada Revenue Agency, News release on October 31, 2023, Ottawa, Ontario

 

“The Minister of National Revenue announces that owners affected by the Underused Housing Tax (UHT) will have until April 30, 2024, to file their returns for the 2022 calendar year without being charged penalties or interest.”


“The UHT is an annual 1% tax on the ownership of vacant or underused housing in Canada. It is a federal tax that is independent of other provincial and municipal taxes on vacant or underused housing in Canada.


It generally applies to foreign national owners of Canadian residential property, but it’s important to note that some Canadian individuals (namely those who own residential property as a partner of a partnership or as a trustee of a trust) and some Canadian corporations may also have to file a UHT return, even if they qualify for an exemption from paying the tax.


These owners are referred to as “affected owners”.”

 

Underused Housing Technical Information


Proposed amendments


“On November 21, 2023, the Department of Finance Canada released legislative and regulatory proposals relating to the Underused Housing Tax Act. Refer to the Legislative and Regulatory Proposals Relating to the Underused Housing Tax Act and Explanatory Notes on the Department of Finance Canada’s website for a complete list and description of the proposed amendments.

Penalties and interest waived until April 30, 2024”


“Residential property owners that are affected by the Underused Housing Tax have until April 30, 2024, to file their returns and pay the tax for the 2022 calendar year without being charged penalties or interest. For more information, go to When to file the return and pay the tax - Underused Housing Tax.”


“The following are technical publications and other helpful information related to the underused housing tax.”


For general enquiries about the underused housing tax, call the applicable telephone number:


if you are calling about a residential property that is owned by an individual and you are calling from: within Canada or the United States, call 1-800-959-8281

Outside Canada and the United States, call 613-940-8495 (collect calls accepted)


If you are calling about a residential property that is owned by a corporation and you are calling from: within Canada or the United States, call 1-800-959-5525

Outside Canada and the United States, call 613-940-8497 (collect calls accepted)


To request a ruling or an interpretation related to the application of the underused housing tax, write to:


GST/HST Ruling DirectorateCanada Revenue AgencyPlace de Ville Tower A 5th floor320 Queen StOttawa ON K1A 0L5Canada

Fax: 1-418-566-0319


For more information on the underused housing tax, go to Underused Housing Tax.


Announcements about the Underused Housing Tax Act and CRA policies that affect the application and administration of the underused housing tax.


Forms required under the Underused Housing Tax Act.


A tool designed to help individuals determine whether their residential property is located in an eligible area of Canada for the purposes of the vacation property exemption.


The Underused Housing Tax Act and related regulations (Department of Justice).

 

Rising Rent is Hard for Tenants:

 

“Can't afford the rent: Rental wages in Canada 2022” by David Macdonald and Ricardo Tranjan JULY 18, 2023, CCPA



The author presents a summary in the 5th section: Supply: Necessary but not sufficient. These key sections are relevant to me:

 

“At least three sets of factors make rent too high for low-wage earners: wage suppression policies; low supply of rental housing, especially purpose-built, rent-

controlled, and non-market units; and poorly regulated rental markets that privilege profit-making over housing security and allow the use of rental accommodation as an asset class. In other words, the mess in which we find ourselves is due to bosses keeping wages down, with help from provincial governments that set the minimum wage and federal governments that control monetary policy.

 

15 It’s also due to governments’ collective failure to build, finance, and acquire the right kinds of rental housing,

 

16 which is compounded by landlords who use their political influence to weaken rental market regulations, allowing them to increase rents and profit margins.

 

17 The explanation we often hear is much simpler. The CMHC Rental Market report (2023 edition), an authoritative source in the field, states that, “Growth in demand outpaced strong growth in supply, pushing the vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments down from 3.1% to 1.9%... Rent growth, for its part, reached a new high.”

 

18 In other passages of the report, the suggested casual relationship is stated even more clearly, “Strong demand for limited rental units means low vacancy rates, rising rents.”19 Media commentary echoes this simplified explanation: “Rental housing vacancy rates in Canada Can’t afford the rent: Rental wages in Canada 2022 22 were 1.9 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent a year ago, leading to a 5.4 per cent increase in rent inflation.”

 

20 Examples abound. This common overemphasis on supply-side arguments is not accidental: it’s a political choice. If we believe lack of supply is the sole cause of skyrocketing rents, the solution is building more. If we build more but rents continue to go up, we must not be building enough. Build more! How? Governments must provide financial and regulatory incentives to developers, the argument goes, and weaken rent controls, like the Ontario government is doing, so that landlords find the business more attractive. This narrow supply-side argument serves a clear purpose: to sweeten the deal for developers and landlords. The argument has been made for decades; it has justified countless subsidies for the real estate industry; it has not lowered rents.

 

21 Supply is necessary but not sufficient to address affordability concerns. Even a careful literature review in defense of supply-side arguments has concluded so.

 

22 It matters what gets built, where, and under which regulatory framework. To directly improve affordability for low-and moderate-income families, governments must focus their dollars on financing, building, and acquiring purpose-built, rent-controlled, and non-market housing that provide fairly priced rents—now and in the long term.

 

23 They must also properly regulate the rental market by fully implementing rent controls on occupied and vacant units and abolishing above-guideline rent increase loopholes. Markets do not solve the problems they create. When the desired outcome is housing security rather than profit, governments must regulate markets and support non-market housing.”

 

High Cost of Home Ownership:

“How much does it cost to own a home in Winnipeg?” Written and published by Bo Kauffmann RE/MAX Listing Agent


 

“Aside from the mortgage payment, how much does it actually cost to own a home in Winnipeg? What are all the costs involved in buying a home?”


The author breaks down a general cost estimate and resources for homeowners, based on last year’s estimates.

 

Alternative Options?

Should we move to the country? What about rural housing in Manitoba?

 

Knowing Your Rights:

 

“MREA Home Owners Handbook”


These are tips for buying and selling housing in general.


“This is an unofficial archived version of The Law of Property Actas enacted by SM 1987-88, c. 9 on July 17, 1987.”


An interesting law around citizens and newcomers around housing.

 

“What Is the Homesteads Act and Why Is It Important?” by Cheryl Pearson on January 30, 2023


This is an old law protecting elderly widows staying in their own home.

 

Indigenous Communities:

Do we respect treaties? What can we learn from First Nations, Metis and Inuit Communities in defending property rights?

 

“Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement”


This Agreement dated for reference July 6, 2021, Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement Between: Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. As represented by the President("MMF") And Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, As represented by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations("Canada") (hereinafter referred to collectively as the "Parties" and individually as "Party") https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1641476532215/1641476589226

This is a summary of Manitoba’s treaty with the Metis Nation.

 

“Section 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870: A Land Claim Agreement, 2014 CanLIIDocs 264” by Darren O'Toole in the Manitoba Law Journal (themanitobalawjournal.com/)

This talks about the Metis Nation’s rights to own land.

 

Taxes:

In general, paying income tax and filing every year is stressful and challenging for me. Why do we pay property taxes and where do they go? How do we not get penalized and how do we understand how to support our friends and family that pay it? How does the government use our property taxes?

 

“How do I claim the Manitoba education property tax credit? Solved” by TurboTax-144, Updated March 31, 2023

 

Where do all these taxes go?

 

“Summary Budget and Financial Updates,” by the Province of Manitoba, 2023

 

Asking Larger Questions About Homelessness?

 

Often homelessness is associated with addictions and mental health. However, when I search on social media, I find more stories about professionals and veterans who lost their homes due to disasters or were priced out, forcing them out, creating homelessness.


From my personal experience, moving itself is a challenge, getting ID, filling out application forms and paying fees, along with disclosing employment information is challenging. I understand landlords want credibility, but when is it too personal?

 

“Housing First and Indigenous Communities: Lessons learned from the City of Winnipeg.”

Based on this research study, the researchers provide steps to housing homeless families.

 

What is the government doing?

“Eliminating Education Property Taxes in Manitoba” by the Province of Government

 

If everyone has the right to housing, why are so may people losing housing?

“The human right to adequate housing: Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing”

 

What questions should be asked about the future of housing?

“Future of Real Estate: Transforming buildings and cities to be more liveable, sustainable, resilient, and affordable.”

 

 

Taking Action:

Researching Already Active Housing Advocates:

How did others keep governments and corporations accountable? What is being done or proposed? Who are active groups in housing?

 

Right2Housing:

They are a grassroots coalition that raises awareness on the housing crisis and their focus is on social housing.

 

Learning from First Nations:

Could we eliminate layers of bureaucracy by taking initiative to help our neighbors instead? What about established communities with hard working citizens, deeply routed in family values?

If we asked the government to step back, balance the budget, lower taxes, and allow citizens more freedom, rights and responsibilities, could our communities thrive? What could we learn from First Nations?

 

“Yänonhchia’ would draw on First Nations’ proud history of sustainable housing” by Jean Vincent, Lance Haymond November 8, 2023


This article shows 2 different types of housing programs, led by neighbors helping each other build or pay for their own home, save up for housing and provide it for young adults to raise a family and pay it forward. These ideas are helpful, and the author recognizes there are limitations due to regulations and the economy.   


“Scaling up an Indigenous-to-Indigenous housing finance model would get far more homes built where banks won’t go and where Ottawa won’t back loans.”


“In better times for Canada, when safe, affordable and adequate housing was in far greater supply and taken for granted by most Canadians, First Nations housing was already in deep crisis. From the very creation of reserves, multi-year waitlists for substandard, overcrowded and inadequate housing have been the norm.”


“Commercial banks will finance homes only if they are guaranteed by the First Nation. So Kebaowek, which is not rich but is a financially stable community of 1,200 members, has been put in the position of having to underwrite the mortgages of its members, something no other town, municipality or large city in Canada has to do or could afford to do.”  


“Because of this obligation, Kebaowek can afford to underwrite only three to four members each year to become homeowners. The contingent liabilities against homeownership loan guarantees already represent 35 per cent of Kebaowek’s annual funding and are growing quickly with the rise in construction costs. The accumulated liabilities undermine the community’s borrowing capacity for social housing and for economic development.”  


The Aboriginal Savings Corporation of Canada (ABSCAN) is a Wendake-based Indigenous-designed and Indigenous-led non-profit. Since 2005, it has invested more than $25 million of First Nation members’ savings in housing, first in Wendake, where the revolving housing fund was unable to keep up with the growing demand, and then in a group of First Nations starting on the same journey toward housing self-sufficiency.” “ABSCAN has incurred no losses and operates without mortgage guarantees from the First Nations involved.”  


“This approach works in communities where banks won’t go and where the federal government refuses to back loans. But for ABSCAN to grow and expand to other communities, increased access to capital is essential.” 


“This is why ABSCAN and like-minded Indigenous financial institutions are now working on the development of Yänonhchia’, accompanied by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, the McConnell Foundation, the federal government, reconciliation-focused investors and capital market experts. The goal is to scale up ABSCAN’s innovative model of Indigenous-to-Indigenous housing finance and make it available across Canada.” 

 

From My Experience:

 

The moving process is also difficult and asking others or finding moving companies or other support on a low budget is next to impossible, without the kind support of neighbors. Their time and support are not only helpful then, but continue to inspire me to care about others and inspire hope and are life giving. 

 

Asking the Audience:

If you are part of a First Nations, Metis or Inuit Nation, please provide any suggestions or feedback on the information shared above.


In general, in Manitoba, how have you survived the housing situation? How can regular citizens like me help their neighbor while living on budgeted time and funds? What did you find helpful? Please share your story.

 

Disclosure:

I am a non-Indigenous Caucasian woman with no expertise in legal, real estate or taxes. Please consult professionals for your questions. I am just a concerned neighbour.


 

Author: Deanna Ng

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