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Post Federal Budget Announcement


According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s population grew by 3.2 per cent in 2023, reaching 40,769,890 as of Jan. 1, 2024, the highest rate since 1957. Across Canada, the population rose by 1,271,872 between Jan. 1, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024. Statistics Canada says 97.6 per cent of that population growth was the result of immigration, with 471,771 of them settling in the country last year. The Government of Canada website stated on Nov.7/2023, the immigration levels plan for 2024-26 as the following: permanent resident admissions with targets of 485,000 in 2024; 500,000 in 2025; and 500,000 in 2026. While public support for immigration in Canada has remained relatively stable and strong for many years, it can decline quickly if the perception of a well managed migration system with positive outcomes is lost. Canadians are still likely to see immigration as having a positive effect on economic growth and the availability of labour, however they are also increasingly seeing it as having a negative impact on access to healthcare and the availability of affordable housing, signaling the need to stabilize levels.

Yesterday, the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced several changes to Canada’s federal business programs to help reduce processing times and the application backlog. These changes take effect on April 30, 2024. Regardless of the pause of applications to the Self Employed Persons Program to process the backlog of applications already in the queue, the scheduled targets of immigration tabled from Nov.7/2023 is still in place, no changes to the planned immigration levels per year of 485,000 in 2024; 500,000 in 2025; and 500,000 in 2026.

Other industries have voiced their concerns over immigration. Many banks have gone to Ottawa for meetings stating their case that in the past, traditionally immigrants would purchase their own home rather then renting. This is in response to the federal government’s Housing Plan which focuses on a country wide purpose built rental market.  Over $40 billion Apartment Construction Loan Program (ACLP) which provides low cost loans for purpose built projects has been topped up by $15 billion taking it to over $40 billion and will be made easier to access by builders and provinces/territories will also be given access. The gov’t stated it will provide low cost financing to build more than 101,000 new rental homes across Canada. The $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund which is popular with municipalities, will also be topped up although this may not result in purpose built rental construction exclusively. Measures will be implemented on short term rentals to return rental stock to the long term market and a fund will be created that non profits can use to keep rental housing affordable. The federal gov’t stated this is already fast tracking the construction of at least 100,000 homes over the next three years, and more than 750,000 homes across Canada over the next decade. Student housing will also receive a boost from the federal gov’t and the Affordable Housing Fund will also be topped up by $1 billion taking it to over $14 billion which the Feds stated will build 60,000 new affordable homes and repair 240,000 additional homes. Investments will be made in Indigenous housing and new co-op housing development program. Although this doesn’t make everyone happy for example banks that would like to continue past levels of mortgage lending, this should raise overall to the housing stock.

On April 10th, the Ontario provincial government introduced a comprehensive bill aimed at simplifying home construction and approval processes across the province. The new Cutting Red Tape to Build More Housing Act would include provisions to decrease the required amount of parking for developers, implement expedited procedures for building student housing, and enforce a use-it-or-lose-it policy. The Ontario Real Estate Board announced it was pleased that action was being taken to address housing supply issues, particularly through the advocacy for modular construction and other streamlined approval processes and key proposals, such as exploring new financing for critical infrastructure, eliminating parking minimums near transit, facilitating the construction of various types of housing units, and supporting mass timber structures and standardized designs for modular homes. However, OREA emphasized the need for additional measures and ensuring that changes to development charges do not increase costs for homebuyers. OREA also expressed disappointment that certain recommendations by the Housing Affordability Task Force, like upzoning along transit corridors, were not included in the bill.

I personally heard an interesting suggestion from someone in the business community who is in Toronto a lot for work. He suggested to convert the empty offices in Toronto to condos/rentals as that could quickly replenish the supply since the buildings are already built. It has been shown that it can be done, many examples of this is in the United States in cities like New York where it can even be part offices in the building and in the same location, part condos/apartments he pointed out. Canada’s national downtown office vacancy rate hit a record high of 19.4% in the final quarter of 2023, hampered by particularly soft demand in Toronto, according to CBRE’s just released Q4 2023 Canada Office Figures. Toronto’s downtown office vacancy rate rose to 17.4% from 15.8% just a quarter earlier.

To conclude, it appears round table discussions from all Canadians on this subject will continue until the public and media outlets simultaneously perceive immigration levels match up with housing supply.

Sources: Statistics Canada/Government of Canada/CMHC/CBRE/Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Karen Parrot