Policy adaptations to improve housing affordability tend to focus on shelter for the homeless, and rental assistance for the working poor. These are important parts of Canada’s social safety net that require ongoing attention, and improvement. However, because younger generations earn thousands less for full-time work compared to 1976, while housing prices have gone up hundreds of thousands, the cost of housing now squeezes entire generations of citizens. So Generation Squeeze is focused on developing housing policy recommendations that will ease the squeeze for the vast majority of Canadians in their 20s, 30s, 40s and their children, and improve housing affordability for those most marginalized in the process. We are forming a working group of housing experts to advise on this important policy work.
Currently, our pursuit of policy adaptations that can reduce the time it takes to save and pay for a home focuses on three areas of reform:
(1) Supply. Guided by a 2015 study published by Vancity Credit Union, we focus on opportunities to increase housing supply through policy adaptations that:
- Build affordability targets into municipal bylaws through inclusionary zoning;
- Implement federal and provincial tax incentives to owners of long-term, purpose-built rental housing to make development of rental housing as competitive as market condominiums;
- Government renewal of leases for the affordable housing stock that exist on public lands, coupled with funds to pay for a redevelopment approach that maximizes affordable and community-owned units on these sites; and
- Incentives to repurpose public and community-owned land to deliver financially sustainable mixed-tenure and mixed-use developments that maximize affordable residential units.
(2) Demand. Building on advice from Dr. David Ley in the UBC School of Geography and Michael Geller, President of the Geller Planning, Real Estate Consulting & Property Development group, we currently focus on making housing more affordable for younger Canadians through the following policy adaptations:
- Provincial governments adjust the property transfer tax so that first time buyers who are Canadian citizens should be exempted from the tax for residential properties priced below the metropolitan median value. Properties priced above the median should face progressive increases in their tax bands to serve as a cooling mechanism for rising prices at the top end of the housing market.
- Municipal governments reduce municipal taxes on residential properties priced below the municipal median value. Properties priced above the municipal median should face progressive increases in their tax bands as a cooling mechanism at the top end of the housing market, and to collect new revenue required to pay for other components of the Better Generational Deal.
- Double the federal government’s first-time home buyers’ tax credit.
- Following the BC Real Estate Association, we recommend that governments monitor the flow of foreign investment in housing by attaching a residency declaration somewhere in the land transform form process, or other practical approach. Gathering data on foreign investment in housing would provide an opportunity to gain further insight into this market segment.
(3) Reduce costs that occur as people are starting their homes. While it can be difficult for governments to influence the demand and supply forces that drive housing prices, we are guided by research from Gen Squeeze Founder, Dr. Paul Kershaw, that show it IS in the control of governments to ensure that Canadians in their 20s, 30 and 40s don’t lose the equivalent of a second mortgage from their income when they share time at home with a new baby, to ensure child care services don’t cost the equivalent of a third mortgage, and postsecondary doesn’t leave debts that are larger than a generation ago, even though postsecondary often leads to jobs that pay less than in the past. To this end, our New Deal for Families and our postsecondary recommendations are designed to save younger Canadians tens of thousands of dollars so that they stand on more stable financial ground to deal with today’s higher housing prices and lower full-time earnings.