Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Wednesday morning pledged tax breaks to developers in an effort to boost the availability of affordable housing across the country.
Trudeau released his party's housing policy during a campaign stop in downtown Toronto — part of its pledge to commit $20 billion over 10 years in what he called "social infrastructure" spending if the Grits are elected on Oct. 19.
The plan would provide $125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units, and would make investment in affordable housing and residences for seniors a priority.
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"Investing in social housing is much more than putting a roof over people's heads. It also creates stable, well-paid jobs that families can rely on," the Liberal leader said during his speech at the Alexandra Park Community Centre.
The community centre is a central hub for a neighbourhood in the midst of a revitalization project run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which operates social housing projects in the city.
"We know that access to affordable and safe housing is part of the solution to many social issues, such as child poverty, student debt and our ability to help people with serious mental health issues and addiction."
Trudeau said the Liberals would offer Canadians new ways to tap into their RRSPs to finance the purchase of a home if they have to move for work, if they take in an elderly relative, or after the death of a spouse.
Current rules allow Canadians to use their registered retirement savings plans to finance the purchase of their first home. The withdrawal limit would remain $25,000 for each transaction.
He said it makes sense to allow people who face a sudden or unexpected change in their lives "to be able to invest in stability in a way that will help them in the long term as well."
"I think our proposal to extend the capacity to invest — to draw from your RRSPs and responsible amounts to help the cost of a new home — is something that will help Canadians in concrete ways," Trudeau said.
"The reality is that too many Canadians cannot afford to buy a house."
And — in an echo of a recently announced Conservative policy — the Liberals would review the cost of housing in high-priced markets like Vancouver and Toronto in an effort to better understand what is driving up prices of condos and homes.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper last month pledged money to study the impact of foreign buyers on Canadian real estate. Harper hinted that his party would look into ways to curb foreign ownership of Canadian homes — a theme Trudeau also picked up on.
"If there are issues of speculation, then yes, the federal government has potential tools to step in, in concert with the province and the municipalities who, of course, know best what challenges their communities are facing," Trudeau said, a day before he campaigns in Vancouver.
The Tories have also vowed to raise the amount Canadians can borrow from their RRSP to finance the purchase of their first home.
Trudeau made the announcement in Spadina-Fort York, a downtown Toronto riding expected to be a hotly contested battleground on election day. It is currently held by Liberal Adam Vaughan, a former Toronto city councillor who won the seat in a byelection after NDP stalwart Olivia Chow stepped down to mount an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Toronto.
Chow is now challenging Vaughan in a race that has so far focused heavily on the price of housing in the city, particularly in the downtown core.
Spadina-Fort York incorporates much of the territory Chow held for years in the now non-existent riding of Trinity-Spadina, which disappeared when federal electoral boundaries were redrawn.
Trudeau is scheduled to fly later Wednesday to Edmonton, where he will meet with Mayor Don Iveson and hold a rally with supporters.
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