Overview: How bad is the housing market?
Recent figures show Canada’s soaring home prices are more than just a Toronto-area problem – and if the real-estate bubble bursts, few parts of the country would escape the economic blow. Home sales across Canada hit a record high in March, with the actual national average price up 8.2 per cent compared with a year ago, and Toronto prices are up a record 33 per cent.
Two big political events are reshaping how provinces and cities respond to the threat of a housing correction. One is the B.C. provincial election, where voters will weigh in on how Christy Clark’s Liberal government has handled the housing file. The other was the Ontario government’s 16-point plan for overhauling the housing market, released in April, which included a proposed foreign buyers’ tax and an expansion of provincial rent-control rues.
Taxing home sales and foreign speculation
What Ontario is doing: The Ontario government announced a “Fair Housing Plan” that includes a tax on real-estate speculation by non-residents and a B.C.-style tax on vacant homes, which Toronto Mayor John Tory has sought for the city. The province has also started collecting data on prospective home buyers’ citizenship status.
What B.C. has done: What Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has called “property scalping,” and what the province’s announcement called “paper flipping,” differs slightly from what British Columbians came to call “shadow flipping” after a Globe investigation of the practice last year. The B.C. practice involved existing homes, whereas Ontario’s measures specifically target pre-construction homes that are sold on assignment before they’re finished. In the wake of The Globe’s investigation, Ms. Clark’s government adopted new measures to curb real-estate speculation. The B.C. government also implemented a foreign buyers’ tax and cities new powers to tax vacant homes, which Vancouver has begun to do.
Unsweetening the deal for buyers
One of the easier measures governments can take is to not introduce any more incentives for first-time home buyers that would keep demand and prices high. At an April 18 meeting, the federal, Ontario and Toronto governments agreed to dial down on policies that stimulate sales, meaning Ottawa and Queen’s Park will not expand tax credits or limits on RRSP deductions new home buyers can make for down payments.
Giving renters a leg up
Ontario’s package of housing measures expands the province’s formula limiting annual rent increases to all new rental properties, not just those built before 1991, The Globe has learned. But several economists say that rent control isn’t the solution to Ontario’s housing problem.
What buyers can do
Be careful: Toronto’s record-high sales numbers have renewed calls from analysts to think twice about entering the real-estate market. Here’s some reading material about the risks involved.
Don’t bet the farm: Can you afford to own a home in Toronto without going into severe debt? Here are some resources to help you figure that out.
Rent responsibly: Even if you decide the housing market isn’t for you, the rental market has its pitfalls too. Here are some resources to help you navigate it safely.
Get informed: The Globe’s House Price Data Centre offers detailed and exclusive data about where prices are headed in major cities. Stay tuned to our real estate hub for more news and personal finance advice.
With reports from The Canadian Press and Globe staff
MORE FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL