Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre released Thursday a housing plan he said would fast-track the construction of new homes in Canada as the country grapples with an acute shortage of affordable places to live.
Poilievre said that after eight years in government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have failed to stimulate the construction of enough homes to meet demand — a situation that has made young people increasingly disillusioned about their financial futures.
The Conservative leader said Trudeau and the federal NDP have plunged the country into “housing hell.” He said a Poilievre-led government would try to fix it through a carrot-and-stick approach.
Poilievre said he will table a private member’s bill in Parliament on Monday, when the House of Commons returns from its summer break.
While the “Building Homes Not Bureaucracy Act” isn’t likely to become law, it signals what the Conservative leader wants to do on this file.
The central feature of Poilievre’s plan is a policy that ties federal funding to housing starts.
Under his proposal, cities would have to increase the number of homes built by 15 per cent each year — a rate that Poilievre said might alleviate the housing crunch.
Local governments that fail to meet that target would see their federal grants withheld at a commensurate rate, Poilievre said.
Under Poilievre’s proposal, a city that increases the number of homes built by only 10 per cent in a given year would see five per cent of its federal funding withheld or clawed back.
If municipalities build more than the 15 per cent target, they would get a “building bonus,” he said.
WATCH: Poilievre slams PM on housing, says Trudeau ‘funds gatekeepers’
“More homebuilding, more money. Less homebuilding, less money. It will be a highly predictable mathematical formula,” Poilievre said.
“What does Justin Trudeau do? He funds the gatekeepers. We don’t need to build more bureaucracy.”
Poilievre’s program is not unlike the government’s existing housing accelerator fund — except Ottawa isn’t proposing to withhold funds from municipalities that are slow to approve housing.
Under the Liberal plan — which is designed to reward cities that build more homes faster by clearing roadblocks to construction — local governments must apply for funding; they don’t get money automatically.
Poilievre’s proposed housing plan
- Tie federal funding to municipalities to the number of housing starts
- Offer “big bonuses” to municipalities that surpass a target of 15 per cent more homes built every year. Claw back money from municipalities that fall short of that target.
- Implement a “NIMBY” fine on municipalities that block construction because of “egregious” opposition from local residents.
- Demand that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) accelerate approval of financing for projects and threaten to withhold bonuses from CMHC staff if they fail to do so.
- Eliminate the GST on affordable apartment housing to spur development.
- Sell off 15 per cent of federally owned buildings so the land can be used to build affordable homes.
Poilievre mocked the accelerator fund (“It sounds like a decelerator fund”) because the program was announced in the 2022 budget but the first funding commitment was only made about 18 months later, on Wednesday, in London, Ont.
Poilievre’s plan would also withhold transit and infrastructure funding from cities that do not mandate the construction of high-density housing around transit stations.
Poilievre made his Thursday announcement on barren land near a busy transit station in Vancouver.
“Just take a moment. What do you see here?” Poilievre said while gesturing to the parking lot behind him. “You see a transit station. Where’s the housing?”
He said there should be high-rises dotting the sky around a place like that so that low-income families, students and seniors can live in affordable homes near transit stations.
Poilievre is also threatening to impose what he calls “a NIMBY penalty” on municipalities that block housing because of “egregious” complaints from residents that ascribe to the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) philosophy.
Residents have been known to push back aggressively against the construction of high-density residences in their neighbourhoods. That has stymied efforts to build new homes in more established areas of Canada’s big cities.
Poilievre also had pointed words for the public servants at CMHC, the federal agency that often approves project funding and mortgage financing.
He said if CMHC needlessly delays approval of housing financing, a Conservative government led by him would withhold employee bonuses.
“The Trudeau government has ballooned the bureaucracy at the CMHC, paying out millions of dollars in bonuses for the very bureaucrats that helped double the cost of housing,” Poilievre said.
“I’ll be slashing all of their bonuses and they will be getting pay cuts unless they meet the target of approving financing for affordable housing in 60 days.”
Poilievre is also calling for the elimination of the federal GST on affordable apartment complexes to spur development. The federal Liberals first pitched that policy in the 2015 federal election before dropping the commitment in 2017.
The federal government said Thursday it will eliminate the GST on the construction of new rental apartments immediately.
With Poilievre riding high in the polls after spending the summer focusing on affordability issues, the Liberal government is trying to roll out a plan of its own to respond to voters’ cost-of-living anxiety.
Housing Minister Sean Fraser has said the government has little to learn from Poilievre on the issue of housing. He said some of the Opposition leader’s proposed policies are already being pursued by Ottawa.
“Let’s not pretend we’re playing behind the Conservatives who are finally starting to talk about the things we’ve been campaigning on actively for the last two election cycles,” Fraser said at the cabinet’s recent retreat in Charlottetown.