by Duffie Osental
With the federal election looming large, the Ontario Real Estate Association is lobbying all four major parties to make homeownership cornerstones of their respective campaigns.
The real estate association has been particularly vocal about the plight of first-time homebuyers, many, if not most, of whom are shuttered out of the housing market for reasons ranging from general affordability to B-20. Whether or not the parties propound strategies of substance remains to be seen, though.
“There has been progress in the last few months, so we feel like our message is being heard,” said Tim Hudak, OREA’s CEO. “The Liberals did bring in the First Time Home Buyer Incentive; the Conservative Party has talked about eliminating the stress test for careful savers renewing their mortgages so they can choose which lender they renew with; the NDP has said they’d bring back 30-year amortizations for insured mortgages. So those three parties put something on the table, but they all fall short of comprehensive plans for that struggling millennial—she just got a job, maybe even a promotion, but she can’t find a home.”
OREA has some suggestions for a (partial) panacea to a housing crisis that Canadians scarcely go a day without reading in the news. Restoring an optional 30-year amortization on insured mortgages, in addition to amending B-20 so that it doesn’t cast a wide net and affect all borrowers, as well as permitting stress test-free switches, are the association’s recommendations to federal political parties.
“Quite frankly, government policies have created a two-tier system where, if you’re rich and get a loan from the bank of mom and dad, you don’t have to worry about these things,” said Hudak. “But the struggling middle-class, which works hard and saves its money and would normally access a mortgage, has been shut out.”
The message Hudak carries isn’t all doom and gloom. He credits Ontario’s provincial government for taking some initiative on key files, notably Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act.
“It includes working with municipalities to eliminate 1970s-era zoning laws,” Hudak said of increasing supply, which he added is the preponderant reason for unaffordability.
“It allows greater density around major transportation hubs, like subways and GO stations and building above them. My centre point is even if there are more homes on the market, these unfair, harsh mortgage restrictions will disqualify far too many people from even putting an offer in.”