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Housing experts, advocates, industry have unified message for government: Get more rentals built

A coalition of housing experts, advocates and industry representatives are calling on the government to overhaul its policies in order to get more rental units built.

Report calls on all levels of government to work collaboratively to address a lack in rental units in Canada

A home with a for rent sign on the front porch is pictured from the street at a pedestrian walks by.

A coalition of housing experts, advocates and industry representatives are calling on the government to overhaul its policies to get more rental units built.

In a new report titled A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada's Rental Housing Crisis, the report is co-authored by Mike Moffatt, founding director of the PLACE Centre at the Smart Prosperity Institute, Tim Richter, president & CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and Michael Brooks, head of REALPAC, a group that represents 130 real estate firms.

"A lot of the conversation is 'Whose responsibility is it to solve this?' And the answer should be 'It's everyone's,'" Moffatt told CBC News.

The report, being released Tuesday, makes a number of recommendations to address a dearth in rental units in Canada's largest cities.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), Canada needs to build 5.8 million new homes — including two million rental units — by 2030 in order to tackle housing affordability.

The report notes that Canada's renting population and the price of rentals have continued to increase in recent years.

One of the report's key recommendations calls on the federal government to take on a leadership role and co-ordinate with provinces, territories and municipalities to ensure that more rental units are built.

"This is too big for any one government or sector to handle alone and so we're hoping the federal government will jump into a leadership role and meet us in the square to have this conversation," Richter said.

Specifically, the report calls on Ottawa to create a national workforce strategy — in co-operation with other levels of government, trade unions and education institutions — to ensure Canada has enough skilled labour to build the number of units needed to meet the needs of renters.

It also calls for financial reforms to ensure rental units are viable for builders and developers. Brooks said that costs to the industry have increased to the point where the number of construction projects for rental units is likely to drop significantly in the coming years.

"We've got a problem that's likely to get worse before it gets better without changing some of the elements," he said.

Some of the financial solutions the report puts forward include creating a tax credit for developers that invest in community rental units and deferring the capital gains tax when a rental housing project is sold and the proceeds are reinvested into the construction of further rental units.

The report also calls for the government to offer fixed-rate financing through CHMC or the Canada Infrastructure Bank on rental builds.

To better help low-income renters, the report suggests a targeted housing tax benefit for families spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.

The report also contains recommendations that federal opposition parties would support.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has suggested in the past that the federal government should tie infrastructure funding to municipalities to local housing permit approvals. Similarly, the report suggests the federal government tie funding to municipal housing targets.

The report also suggests that the government waive the GST on rental housing construction, something that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been calling for.

The author's said they hope their report sends a signal to all governments of varying political stripes to work together to solve the housing crisis.

"This is about communication and collaboration," Brooks said. "Get together in a room and talk to each other and make that conversation be based on evidence."

"I think we were all pleasantly surprised just how much common ground there was," Richter said of working on the report with his two co-authors.

"There's plenty of stuff that I'm sure that we don't agree on, but there was more that we do agree on then we didn't and I think you see that in the report," he said.


Darren Major

CBC Journalist

Darren Major is a senior writer for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He can be reached via email at darren.major@cbc.ca.

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