British Columbia

Vancouver house prices: federal parties talk affordability

It's the talk of dinner parties around the city, but how are the federal political parties planning to address the issue of housing affordability in Vancouver?

The four main political parties pitch their housing affordability plans

Vancouver's unaffordable real estate has been a hot topic for many locals and now residents want to hear from political candidates on what is going to be done. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

It's the headline that keeps getting recycled: Vancouver house prices on the rise. From the coffee house to the rented house, the subject of housing affordability is never far from the lips of Vancouverites.

The latests stats are troubling for those not already in the red-hot market, or those looking to move from a condo or townhome to a house. The benchmark price for a detached home in Metro Vancouver has increased 18.9 per cent from the previous year and sits at $1.17 million, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

A report by RBC Economics shows housing affordability continued to decline in Vancouver and Toronto in the first quarter of the year. The report found that covering the cost of a single-family home in the city would require more than 85 per cent of a household's pre-tax income. 

Meanwhile, a local architect firm predicts that soon no single-family home in Metro Vancouver will be worth less than a million dollars. Bing Thom Architects says once you add in the cost of commuting to the cost of living in the suburbs the price is pretty much the same.

With the federal election just weeks away, here is how each federal political party plans to tackle the problem of affordability. 

Conservatives

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks to the media during a campaign stop Montreal Que., on Saturday, October 3, 2015. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives haven't said much about housing, but have been talking up their "Home Buyers Plan." I would increase the amount people can take out of their RRSPs without penalty — if the money is returned — for a down payment.

If re-elected, the Conservatives say they would spend $500,000 next year to collect data on foreign investors, in an effort to try and answer the question of how much influence foreign buyers have on the Vancouver housing market.

"We also want to find out if the foreign ownership of residential real estate by non-residents to what extent it is affecting the market and if it is affecting the market. We want to make sure to take the appropriate measures to help Canadians to achieve their goal of owning their home," said North Vancouver Conservative candidate Andrew Saxton.

Read the party's full platform on housing affordability. 

Liberals

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a rally in Brampton, Ont. on October 4, 2015. (CBC)

The Liberals are committing $20 billion over 10 years as part of what party leader Justin Trudeau calls "social infrastructure."

"A Liberal government will prioritize significant new investment in affordable housing and seniors facilities. That means we'll help build more housing units and refurbish old ones. We will provide money to municipalities to maintain rent geared to income subsidies in co-ops," said Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau. 

Trudeau said his plan would provide $125 million per year in tax incentives for developers, with an emphasis on building and renovating rental housing.

Read the party's full platform on housing affordability. 

NDP 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair smiles during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday August 19, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The NDP promises to invest $2.7 billion over the next four years to build affordable housing, pledging to build 10,000 new units by 2025. The party also plans to bring back a national housing program, which hasn't existed since 1993.

"If the program was not cancelled and kept up with the federal dollars, we would have had an additional half a million affordable or co-op units in this country," said Vancouver East NDP candidate Jenny Kwan.


The NDP is also planning to provide tax incentives to get the private sector to build market housing that includes social housing and subsidized rental units. 

Read the party's full platform on housing affordability. 

Green Party

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May holds a copy of her party's platform during a campaign event in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 9, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The Green Party, the first to announce policy on housing this campaign, echoes some of the Liberals' stance on tax incentives. It has also pledged to reform the tax system so that new developments would be required to keep some units below market price.  

"What we want to do, is for one thing, bring back some of the tax programs that used to exist that encouraged the developers and builders to build purpose-built rental units. That has dropped out of housing mix substantially since the tax treatment changed. A lot of the rental units are long in the tooth. You don't see people building rental apartment units that are affordable, part of that was a change in the federal tax system," said party leader Elizabeth May. 

Read the party's full platform on housing affordability. 


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Vancouver housing prices, political parties plan to bring it down with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

With files from Elaine Chau.

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