Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised Tuesday a suite of new measures to help Canadians buy a home at a time when the red-hot housing market has made owning property seem like a distant dream for many young people.

Speaking to reporters in Hamilton, Trudeau said the real estate market is marked by “instability” and “uncertainty” and a COVID-fuelled spike has led to soaring prices, bidding wars, rampant speculation and a slew of vacant properties — a situation that demands government intervention to ease more people into their own homes.

The aggressive plan — billions in new funding, a temporary ban on “flipping” homes, blocking foreign nationals from buying homes for two years and new regulatory measures to police exploitative real estate agents — comes at a time when Canadians are telling pollsters that housing is one of the issues they care about most.

The three-point program includes commitments to “unlock home ownership” through new government funding, a plan to build more homes to address supply constraints and measures to establish and protect new rights for buyers.

“If you work hard, if you save, that dream of having your own place should be in reach. But for too many people, it just isn’t — and that’s not right,” Trudeau said.

“You shouldn’t have to move far away from your job, or school or family to afford your rent. You shouldn’t lose a bidding war on your home to speculators. It’s time for things to change.”

Promise to double tax credit

If re-elected on Sept. 20, Trudeau promised to introduce a first home savings account, which will allow Canadians up to age 40 to save $40,000 toward their first home and withdraw it tax-free when it comes time to buy. Money added to the account will go in tax-free and will also be withdrawn without any taxes owing on possible investment gains.

A Liberal government would double the first-time homebuyers tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000, an incentive that will help with the many closing costs that come with buying property.

To reduce mortgage costs, a Trudeau-led government would force the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to slash mortgage insurance rates by 25 per cent — a $6,100 savings for the typical person. The Liberals are also proposing a sort of “rent-to-own” program with $1 billion in new funding to “create a pathway for renters in five years or less.”

To help with the supply side of the equation, Trudeau promised to “build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes in the next four years,” by giving cities “new tools to speed up housing construction.” A re-elected Liberal government would create a $4-billion pool of cash that cities can tap if they help create “middle-class homes.” The party believes this program, which will crack down on speculators owning vacant land, will result in tens of thousands of new homes in four years.

The party is also promising $2.7 billion over four years to build or repair more affordable homes; money to convert empty office space into housing; a “multigenerational home renovation tax credit,” to offset the costs of adding a secondary unit to a home; and more money for Indigenous housing to help First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who live in substandard conditions.

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Find out who’s ahead in the latest polls with our Poll Tracker.

‘Total price transparency’

Trudeau also promised to crack down on abusive real estate practices that have made buying a home an unpleasant experience for many in recent years.

A new federal Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights will ban blind binding — homebuyers vying for the same property often don’t know how much others are offering — as well as establish a legal right to home inspection; ensure “total price transparency” so a would-be buyer knows the history of recent house sale prices; require more disclosure from real estate agents who represent both the buyer and the seller; and demand banks offer mortgage deferrals for six months if someone loses their job. 

Matching a promise made by the Conservatives, a Liberal government would also ban new foreign ownership of Canadian homes for the next two years, a measure designed to put a pause on rampant housing speculation driven by offshore money.

The Liberals would also impose an “anti-flipping tax” on residential properties, which would require properties be held for at least 12 months.


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