Federal Election provides thought leadership opportunities for the real estate industry

Gwen McGuire

As election day approaches, housing continues to be a prominent and contentious election issue

At KLC, our team of real estate industry experts is closely monitoring the election and the various party platforms to provide updates and insights on how our real estate clients can navigate communications opportunities in the days and weeks ahead.

From a strategic communications standpoint, elections are not only a time to watch for potential changes and policy implications for the industry, but also an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership and enhance the visibility of your company’s leaders and experts. The result will be greater profile and credibility among your target audiences and stakeholders.

When it comes to issues facing the industry, each of the parties has announced how they plan to tackle major areas like housing affordability, mortgage lending rules and foreign ownership in real estate in order to win over voters.  These platforms provide several jumping off points to lean in with your expertise through your communications channels.

Our recommendation: With just two weeks left until election day, consider seizing the PR moment and showcasing your company’s expertise.

Here’s what we know about the party platforms:

 

Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal campaign is primarily focused on the party’s previously announced $55-billion National Housing Strategy, aimed at expanding affordable and social housing over 10 years – with an aim to build 100,000 affordable housing units. The current government is also proposing the introduction of a one per cent surtax on absentee foreign property owners to further spur speculative activity in the country’s real estate market – which many believe is a key culprit in the runway home prices experienced in some of our largest cities.

Earlier this year, the party also unveiled a new $1.25-billion shared-equity program for first-time home buyers, providing qualified applicants with an interest-free loan of up to 10 per cent of the down payment on new homes and five per cent on resale homes, in exchange for a proportional share of the future gains when the house is sold. In his recent housing announcement in Victoria, B.C., Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the price limit in the shared-equity program will be increased for buyers in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, where the program caps essentially made it unusable.

If re-elected, the Liberals have also committed to retrofitting 1.5 million homes over five years to make them more energy efficient and protected from climate-related weather events. The government will offer free energy audits for homeowners and landlords, as well as interest-free loans of up to $40,000 should they make eco-friendly changes to their properties, as well as create a net-zero homes grant of up to $5,000 for buyers of new homes that are certified zero-emissions.

Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservatives are promising help to would-be, first-time and move-up home buyers with a commitment to extend the mortgage amortization limit from 25 to 30 years – which could mean lower monthly mortgage costs for Canadian homeowners.  Conservative leader Andrew Sheer also promised to review the mortgage stress test but did not specify how it might be modified.  He did, however, state that he would remove the stress test when mortgages are renewed with a new lender.

The party is also pledging to address housing shortages by easing regulations to get more homes built and by making surplus federal real estate available for development.  Scheer also committed to launching an inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector.

A Conservative government would also create a 20 per cent refundable tax credit on income taxes for green improvements that cost up to $20,000 spent over two years.

New Democratic Party of Canada

The NDP platform is promising $500 million in spending to create more affordable housing, as well as a commitment to support renters and builders of rental apartments. Their platform also promises assistance for first-time home buyers, including 30-year mortgage amortizations on entry-level homes and a doubling of the current tax credit to $1,500.

In an effort to further curb speculative real estate purchases and price inflation, party leader Jagmeet Singh has pledged to implement a national 15 per cent tax on purchases by non-Canadians who are not permanent residents – a tax which would apply on top of foreign buyer taxes already put in place in B.C. and Ontario.

To further address the issues of housing affordability and supply, an NDP government would remove the federal portion of the GST/HST for those constructing affordable units.

Green Party of Canada

The Green Party’s platform is focused primarily on the supply-side of the equation and includes a commitment to building 25,000 new affordable units and renovating 15,000 every year for the next 10 years. The party has also proposed to rethink the mandate of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to support non-market and co-operative housing.

Further, Party leader Elizabeth May vowed that, if elected, the Green Party would wish to legislate housing as a “legally protected fundamental right for all Canadians” and appoint a minister of housing to oversee the national housing file.  She has also committed to providing funds for building and enhancing energy-efficient homes and to allocate one per cent of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure.

Bloc Québécois

In its electoral platform, the Bloc Québécois is focused on the environment, the Quebec identity and the shortage of manpower. The housing issue is not addressed directly in their platform, but it is the subject of many references scattered in the Bloc proposals.

The Bloc is planning to revive the ecoENERGY program, a system of subsidies for homeowners who want to make their homes greener by including commercial buildings. A grant of up to $5,000 would be awarded to homeowners who get the green light from an accredited energy advisor.

In addition, the Bloc wants to focus on social housing. In the current situation, the bloc wants to maintain subsidies while improving the budget allocated to the construction, renovation and transformation of social and affordable housing. They are also proposing tax credits for intergenerational housing energy efficient renovations, multigenerational residences and other renovations to allow people with declining independence to stay at home.

Finally, the block wants to allow victims of natural disasters to withdraw funds from their RRSPs to renovate their homes without penalty or taxation.

People Party – Party Populaire

In keeping with its vision of a state with limited powers for more individual freedoms, the People’s Party of Canada plans to eliminate all business subsidies and heavily limit government intervention in the economy. This is Maxime Bernier’s most relevant lever to lower the cost of living and improve the quality of life in Canadian cities and tense real estate markets.

For the moment, Maxime Bernier’s comments on housing refer back to the flagship proposals of his campaign including tax cuts for individuals and businesses that would allow the release of more purchasing power, policies to ensure more competition in key sectors of the economy with high employment such as telecommunications, and lowering immigration.

For the People’s Party, housing issues can only be solved by other factors such as the restriction of immigration, the end of supply management or massive tax cuts.

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As election day draws closer, the time for commentary and leadership from the real estate industry is now. Organizations that can determine and proactively communicate their position(s) on the key industry issues will help shape public opinion.

Our KLC team is tracking the issues and are prepared to help with strategies and programs to help communicate your company’s leadership position.