Scheer talks business, housing
Trevor Nichols - Apr 05, 2018 - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols

The leader of the federal Conservative party says reforming the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation could be one way to help communities tackle housing affordability.

Andrew Scheer made the comments this morning, after speaking to members of the business community at a Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Scheer said regulating local housing markets is “best left to provinces and cities,” but that the federal government can take some steps to help address housing affordability.

Criticizing changes to the federal government recently made to mortgage “stress test” rules, Scheer said the government needs to consider individual housing markets, as opposed to lumping the entire country together.

“The problem, I believe, is that we have a government that believes that there’s a national housing market,” he said. “There’s not a national housing market, there’s dozens of local markets… yet when they (the government) make changes to the CMHC it applies all across the country.”

Speaking to media after a question-and-answer session, Scheer said changing the CMHC to “be more responsive to local regions” is one way to address the issue, but didn’t give additional details on what those changes might look like.

The Conservative leader also said solutions to housing affordability have to come from both the supply and demand sides of the market.

“If we look at affordability only on the demand side, only with how people qualify for mortgages… we’re missing half the picture. We have to have new units coming onto the market,” he said.

He said reducing the time it takes for new housing projects to come to market is critically important, and that governments should be setting targets for the number of new developments getting built.

“If we don’t talk about … making it easier for new units to come to market, we will always just have more buyers chasing the same number of units,” he said.

Scheer also said he’d like to see a “comprehensive” look at the country’s tax system, to try and make things easier for local business owners.

“Over the course of several decades both Liberal and Conservative governments, when they get in, they do different things to the tax code, and you end up with a bit of a patchwork,” he said.

He said he’d like to see a more “consistent” tax code, and that a Conservative government would work to make that happen, starting with studies and consultations before they considered significant changes.

He criticized Bill Morneau and the federal Liberals for the way they rolled out their proposed corporate tax changes last summer, which left many Okanagan business owners upset and confused.

Just as with potential changes to the CMHC, Scheer said he’ll make more specific details on tax reform available when his party releases its new platform.

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