Poilievre's Conservative housing plan requires cities to increase supply by 15% annually

Sep 18 2023, 9:03 pm

During a press conference late last week at a future transit-oriented development site next to SkyTrain VCC-Clark Station in Vancouver, federal Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre announced a national housing plan that would target the “gatekeepers” of new housing supply.

Although such a strategy is expected to be included in any future election campaign, Poilievre is making a first attempt today by introducing it as a private member’s bill in Parliament, known as the “Building Homes Not Bureaucracy Act.”

“In Canada, we had a deal. You get a job; you get a house. Justin Trudeau has broken this promise. What’s worse? This wasn’t his promise to break. Politicians break promises all the time. But this wasn’t a simple promise put together by backroom political staffers in an election platform. This was Canada’s promise to her people,” said Poilievre in a statement.

“As prime minister, I’ll link federal dollars to the number of homes actually being built and make it as easy as possible for our builders to get shovels in the ground. It’s just common sense.”

Key to the Conservative plan is to require the most problematic municipal jurisdictions for housing affordability — the “big cities” — to build more homes and speed up the permitting process. Municipal governments will be required to increase the number of housing completions by 15% annually, and then 15% on top of the previous target every single year through compounding.

If a municipal government misses their annual target, it will have to catch up in the following years and build even more homes. If they fail to do so, a percentage of their federal funding will be withheld, equivalent to the percentage they missed their target by.

Conversely, municipal governments will be proportionally financially rewarded if they exceed a 15% increase in housing completions. For cities that “greatly exceed” their housing targets, they will be provided with a “Super Bonus.”

Such a strategy requiring municipal governments to comply with annual housing targets is similar to provincial-based policies enacted by the provincial governments of British Columbia and Ontario on their respective municipal governments.

As part of the Conservative plan, federal public transit and infrastructure funding will be withheld from municipal governments until sufficient high-density housing is constructed and occupied around public transit stations — a measure to incentivize transit-oriented development and optimize the benefits of such federal investments.

Major penalties will be imposed on municipal governments that upheld “egregious cases of NIMBYism” by empowering Canadians to file complaints about NIMBYism with the federal infrastructure department. Similarly, cities that side with unreasonable local opposition — the definition of NIMBYism — will see their federal public transit and infrastructure funding withheld.

For the federal government’s part, the Conservative plan calls for listing 15% of the federal government’s 37,000 buildings and all appropriate federal land to be turned into affordable housing. Such a list would be compiled within 18 months after the bill’s passing.

Poilievre also targeted Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation by vowing to cut its bonuses and salaries, and fire the gatekeepers within the federal crown corporation, if needed. He asserts they are slowing down the process of reviewing and approving low-cost construction financing applications for builders of affordable housing. He wants the timeline cut down to an average of 60 days.

Another component of the Conservative plan is to remove the federal GST on the construction cost of any new secured purpose-built rental housing with rental rates below market, which would be funded using funding from the Liberal party’s Housing Accelerator fund. Poilievre deems the existing program to be a failure because it was announced in the 2022 budget, but the first round of funding commitment was only made about 18 months later.

Just a day before Poilievre’s pitch, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revived his 2015 election campaign promise of removing the federal GST from eligible secured purpose-built rental housing construction costs due to the ever-challenging economic challenges for such projects.

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