Over the last five weeks, housing affordability has been top of mind for Canadians, and for politicians. All four major parties have included measures to address housing affordability in their platforms. A national debate on housing took place on October 6, 2019, and there has been a steady stream of media articles talking about the risks and opportunities around homeownership.

Throughout the campaign, CHBA has worked hard to provide information about options to address housing affordability, and to keep homeownership – especially for first-time buyers – on everyone’s radar.

As voters, especially millennials, prepare to cast their ballots, there are two last pieces to discuss: the quality of mortgage “debt” versus other debt, and housing supply.

Mortgage” debt” is an investment

It is true that household debt is on the rise in Canada, but not all debt is the same. Credit cards, lines of credit, and car loans are debt with a short-term gain and little long-term benefit. For most well-qualified first-time buyers, mortgage debt brings the gain of homeownership, with longer-term financial benefits.

As pointed out by some candidates in the Federal debate, a mortgage is an investment.

Over time, homeowners are 9.6 times better off financially than renters. While mortgage debt is being paid down, equity is being built.  And as the costs of renting and owning are increasingly comparable, the benefits to homeownership and the mortgage that normally entails are even clearer. Yes, Canadians do need to be financially responsible, as do our lenders and financial institutions. But limiting access to homeownership is not the answer to the long-term financial health and aspirations of many Canadians — in fact, it’s the opposite.

Breaking down the barriers to housing supply

Beyond the need to fix mortgage rules, there is a need to bring more supply on to help curb price escalation, based on a simple factor: supply and demand. There is a shortage of housing, especially “missing middle”, family-oriented housing in Canada. When there is a shortage of any product, and high demand, the prices go up. This is no different in housing, except the housing shortage is caused by government policy.

In these last weeks of the federal election campaign, all parties have begun to talk about breaking down barriers to housing supply, across the entire continuum, which is very good and desperately needed. Therefore, no matter who wins the election, concrete action must follow. Competitions and intergovernmental discussions may help drive the issue forward, but real action is needed to reduce barriers at all levels of government. The next federal government could show leadership by using the tools it has – transit investments, use of federal lands, tax treatments for rental, a national NIMBY to YIMBY for rental and innovative housing forms – to help get more supply online quickly.

On October 21, Canadians have a chance to help unlock the door to homeownership with their vote. We invite you to take one last look at what the federal parties have brought to the table on housing affordability and to decide for yourself, and we look forward to working with the next government to make these dreams a reality.

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