Fraser says housing measures coming in budget update, weighs in on short-term rentals

By Nojoud Al Mallees in Ottawa

Housing Minister Sean Fraser says the federal government will reveal more housing measures in the fall budget update and in the coming months that aim to ramp up homebuilding across the country. 

In a news conference on Monday, Fraser also weighed in on measures the federal government could pursue to address the strain short-term rentals are putting on housing affordability. 

“You should expect to see additional measures on housing in the fall economic statement. You should expect to see additional measures more broadly in the months ahead as they are ready. I’m not going to wait and hold them for some magic date, where we suddenly release all of the policies at once,” Fraser said.

Some of those expected measures include tying federal infrastructure spending to housing outcomes in local communities. Fraser also said there will be more policies geared toward increasing the stock of social housing, and increasing workers’ skills and innovation in the construction industry. 

“There’ll be a series of other measures that we seek to address around the financialization of housing as well,” Fraser said. 

Last week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland applauded the B.C. government for going after short-term rentals and said the federal government was looking at what it can do to help make more of these units available as long-term rentals.

The province has introduced new legislation that will limit short-term rentals to principal residences and one secondary suite or unit, Premier David Eby announced last week. 

Eby said the government will also increase fines for short-term rental operators who break municipal bylaws and will require short-term rental platforms to share data with the province for enforcement and tax purposes.

Fraser said the federal government could use taxation to discourage short-term rentals and attach conditions to federal funding for other levels of government. 

“We could potentially leverage federal programs, include taxation, include the federal spending power to incentivize other kinds of behaviour,” he said, but added that no decisions have been made yet. 

Freeland has not announced the date for this year’s fall economic statement yet but it is expected in the coming weeks. 

The federal government is under pressure to address the housing crisis and has created policies aimed at building more housing, including removing the GST on purpose-built rentals and unlocking more low-cost financing for home construction. 

It has also reached deals with some municipalities in recent weeks as part of the housing accelerator fund, a federal program that awards funding to cities based on their plans to boost their housing stock.

Fraser said the federal government is prioritizing funding to cities with the most ambitious plans and has shared best practices based on applications received. 

These include ending exclusionary zoning, using technology to speed up permit processing and using municipal lands to build more housing. 

“We would encourage other cities who have pending applications to consider implementing some of these changes to strengthen your odds of approval,” he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2024

Banner image via The Canadian Press