Housing has become out of reach for many Canadians, in particular for young families living in big cities. Vancouver and Toronto have become two of the least affordable large cities in the world.
Over the past decades, the federal government has spent billions of dollars and created various bureaucratic programs to presumably make housing more affordable, with no results. Among other things, it has manipulated the financial criteria to qualify for mortgages and mortgage insurance, provided tax breaks to first buyers, and funded social housing.
The fundamental problem however is the mismatch between supply of and demand for housing, that Ottawa, the provinces and municipalities are making worse with other policies, in particular mass immigration and zoning restrictions.
About 40% of immigrants to Canada end up settling in only two cities, Toronto and Vancouver, where the housing shortage is most acute. The Trudeau government has increased immigration targets from 250,000 per year under the Harper government, to 500,000 in 2025. Mass immigration is one of the main reasons for the constantly high level of demand for housing and the exorbitant prices in these cities. Even if a lot more houses were to be built, supply cannot keep up with this level of demand.
Overall inflation has become a major problem in every sector of the economy and is a consequence of inflationary monetary policy – that is, the Bank of Canada having printed too much money in order to fund the Trudeau government’s gigantic deficits. This inflationary policy adds to the already overheated conditions in the housing market.
Housing is primarily a provincial or local responsibility. Ottawa’s involvement over the years has only resulted in distorting the housing market. There is nothing the federal government can do to change provincial or municipal zoning laws, but it can stop contributing to the overheating of the housing market in different ways.
(Updated January 2023)