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Minister tasked with tackling Canada’s housing crisis says Ottawa considering a cap on international students

The federal government is considering a cap on the number of international students to ease the pressure on the housing market, says the man now tasked with tackling Canada's housing crisis.

Housing affordability one of the main issues as cabinet meets for three days in P.E.I.

Liberal cabinet retreat focuses on affordable housing

5 hours ago

Duration 2:16

Affordable housing is at the top of the agenda, as Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet begins a three-day retreat in Charlottetown as polling suggests the government is falling behind the opposition Conservatives.

The federal government is considering a cap on the number of international students to ease the pressure on the housing market, says the man now tasked with tackling Canada's housing crisis.

"I think that's one of the options that we ought to consider," federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser told reporters as the Liberal cabinet gathered in Charlottetown on Monday.

"I think we need to do some serious thinking here."

Canada hosted more than 800,000 international students last year, according to the government's figures.

Fraser — who was the immigration minister until last month's cabinet shuffle — said he plans to sit down with post-secondary institutions to find out what can be done to make it easier to find living space for those students in a tight rental market.

"If they're going to continue to bring in record numbers of students, that they are being part of the solution as well by making sure that they have a place to live," he said.

He also took aim at institutions he accused of exploiting students and exacerbating the housing crisis.

"When you see some of these institutions that have five, six times as many students enrolled as they have spaces for them in the building … you've got to start to ask yourself some pretty tough questions," he said.

"There are good private institutions out there and separating the wheat from the chaff is going to be a big focus of the work that I tried to do with [Immigration Minister Marc] Miller."

Addressing the housing crisis is one of the main goals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new cabinet as it meets for the traditional retreat before Parliament returns next month.

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.

Fraser cautioned against blaming the lack of affordable housing on new immigrants.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters following an announcement at the Island Montessori Academy in Cornwall, P.E.I., Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

"Let's look at what the actual cause of the challenges are that we're dealing with, and recognize that immigration can actually be used as a tool to bring the workers that we need to build more homes," he said.

"We have to be really, really careful that we don't have a conversation that somehow blames newcomers for the housing challenges that have been several decades in the works in Canada."

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of doing just that during his own media availability in Ottawa on Monday.

"He wants Canadians to forget all that and blame immigrants. He wants to divide people to distract from his failings," he said.

"He thinks if you're afraid of your neighbour you might forget that you can't pay your rent. This is what demagogues do."

Trudeau defended his government's immigration policies when questioned Monday morning by reporters about whether Canada's housing supply can keep up with its rapid population growth.

"Yes, there's much more we need to do on housing, and we're continuing to step up with record investments and partnerships with municipalities and provinces," he said during a stop at the Island Montessori Academy in Cornwall, P.E.I. on Monday morning.

"But we're going to continue to be the open, welcoming, prosperous and growing country we've always been because that has been something that has led to great opportunities and prosperity for all Canadians."

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