Can the federal government make the housing market more affordable? Canadians aren’t sold

The federal government is suggesting it’s going to tackle housing affordability issues, but it looks like many Canadians aren’t buying it.

The federal government is suggesting it’s going to tackle housing affordability issues, but it looks like many Canadians aren’t buying it.

More than half of the respondents to a new survey from real estate portal Zoocasa.com say government intervention alone isn’t enough to make Canadian housing affordable.

Zoocasa polled more than 1,000 renters and homeowners from across Canada over the first 11 days of this month.

On the same day polling began, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced its goal to ensure all Canadians have an affordable home come 2030.

It’s an ambitious goal, one the Crown corporation acknowledged it couldn’t achieve on its own.

But just 21 percent who took part in the Zoocasa poll were confident the government would be able to make any improvement at all within the next five years.

Among that share, renters were more optimistic at 26 percent, compared to the 19 percent of homeowners who agreed the government could help the situation in some way by 2024.

The real estate industry has been pushing for the government to take action in a number of ways.

One possible measure proposed is loosening the stress test introduced last year for uninsured mortgages, a regulation that forces borrowers to qualify at a rate 200 basis points above what their bank is offering — even if they can afford a 20-percent downpayment.

Some 15 percent of respondents say reducing the stress test rate would be the most helpful option.

Another idea floated is extending the maximum amortization period for insured mortgages so buyers can make lower monthly payments over a longer period of time.

Another 10 percent agree this would be tops in terms of effectiveness.

The stress test and amortization periods have captured much of the media coverage leading up to the federal budget announcement on March 19th.

But increasing the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit received the most support at 28 percent.

“The FTHB Tax Credit offers a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009,” Olga Coulter, a senior account manager at CMHC, recently explained to Livabl.

While Canadians await the release of the budget, Penelope Graham, managing editor of Zoocasa, highlights the significance of the Canadian government’s next steps.

“The pressure has been mounting on the federal government [in] recent years to take action to improve affordability,” Graham writes in a blog post about the survey.

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