Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest has said he will tackle Canada’s housing affordability crisis by increasing the supply of new homes – essentially the same pitch offered by his main rival in management and the Liberal government itself.
This strategy is outlined in Charest’s housing plan, released today under the title “Building the Canadian Dream”.
The plan’s stated goal is “to help all Canadians gain access to homeownership” by reversing a years-long upward price trend that has made it difficult, if not impossible, for many Canadians to afford a home. .
The former Quebec premier said Ottawa can help solve this crisis by providing better support to municipal and provincial governments that have jurisdiction over things like zoning, development approvals and building affordable housing.
“The federal government, on an issue like housing, should play a supporting role,” Charest said in an interview with CBC News.
“We have to recognize that municipalities and provinces are on the front lines.”
The topic of housing affordability is set to play a central role in the Conservative leadership race that will play out for most of the summer.
Pierre Poilievre, arguably Charest’s main contender in the race, almost immediately put the subject of housing affordability at the forefront of his leadership campaign.
The Liberal government has also identified housing as a key issue.
The government’s 2022 budget commits just over $10 billion to new programs and policy changes to make housing more affordable, about a third of all new spending announced in the budget.
“The main problem is inventory,” says Charest
As Charest, his fellow Conservative leadership rivals, and the federal government vie for advantage on the housing issue, they have all identified the same problem: a lack of new supplies to keep up with Canada’s population.
“The main issue is inventory,” Charest said.
Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen has also singled out the lack of supply as the main driver of rising prices, although some experts say this argument oversimplifies a very complex economic issue.
Charest’s plan cites a goal to “massively increase housing supply” through various initiatives, such as funneling more affordable housing subsidies to municipalities that speed up their approval processes and tie infrastructure funding to projects that create density along transit corridors.
Charest would also create a new immigration route for skilled construction workers. A shortage of skilled workers has been identified by economists as a major obstacle to any plan to massively increase new construction.
Charest’s proposals include a strategy that is in many ways similar to the approach of the Liberal government, in particular its proposed Housing Acceleration Fund. This program also aims to boost supply by rewarding municipalities that demonstrate an ability to speed up the housing construction process. The exact operation of this program has not been announced.
Conservative rivals describe similar approaches
Poilievre described a more punitive strategy for accelerating new development. He said a government led by him would “fire the gatekeepers” and unclog bureaucratic processes he blames for Canada’s shortage of new housing.
He said “extremely unaffordable cities” like Toronto and Vancouver would have to increase housing construction by 15% to continue receiving federal funding under a Poilievre government.
Scott Aitchison is the only other Tory leadership candidate to date to have released a detailed housing plan. It also focuses on a push for more supply.
Aitchison’s strategy would see Ottawa “tie funding to results” and push municipalities to end exclusionary zoning practices that prohibit the construction of certain types of homes.
Patrick Brown has so far promised to “take the fight for affordable housing” to Ottawa while pointing to his record on housing as mayor of Brampton since 2018.
The Charest plan does not say how many new homes Canada should build to deal with the affordability crisis.
According to an analysis by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Liberal government says Canada needs to build 3.5 million more homes over the next 10 years.