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Can the housing crisis be fixed without lowering current property values? Analysts are skeptical


Newly-appointed Minister of Housing Sean Fraser made a bold pledge in his first weeks on the job when he said that the federal government’s goal was to increase Canada’s housing supply while maintaining the high values of existing properties.

Fraser’s statement has since been the subject of some debate among economists and other policy scholars, mainly because it seems to conflict with conventional thinking about the relationship between supply, demand, and prices. Although it was largely met with skepticism from such experts, there are some notable voices on housing, including Western University business professor and recent Hub contributor Mike Moffat, who have broadly agreed with it. 

The predominant view is reflected in Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer of Economics at Concordia University, who says home values will be maintained as long as demand outpaces any increase in the housing supply. 

“If the increase in demand continues to outstrip any increase in supply, housing prices will continue to rise,” says Lander. “The only way an increase in housing supply will result in a decline in home values is if it increases faster than demand increases, which is unlikely given Canada’s growing population.”

The current price to rent an unfurnished, one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver was more than $2800 per month in January, which was roughly the average monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment in the city in 2019. The average price of a house across Canada in April was $716,000, up from $472,000 in 2019. 

The federal government has staked out an ambitious goal of admitting half a million new residents per year, a number which vastly outstrips the number of new homes built yearly over the past five years. 

Ron Butler, the founder of Butler Mortgage, says Fraser’s statement is completely unrealistic. 

“That is a venture that would only normally be undertaken by David Copperfield because it has a magical quality to it,” says Butler. “To say that there is an ability to create affordable homes for young Canadians to buy, and that at the same time, there will be no price reduction at all for people who’ve purchased already is obviously magical thinking.” 

Eric Lombardi, the founder of More Neighbours Toronto which advocates for boosting the housing supply, says it is impossible for housing prices to be maintained while space for housing becomes more affordable. 

“What we need to focus on is less about what’s the value of the land, but more so on the cost per square foot of net new housing,” says Lombardi. “If that comes down, the cost per square foot of housing in the built-up market has to come down.

Lombardi says the value of the land itself, rather than the property value, should be the focus of any effort to tackle unaffordable prices. 

“A large reason why we have this housing crisis is that we’re very restricted on how we can use land,” says Lombardi. “A very little bit is allowed to be much more than a small project, and even the laws around multiplexes that were introduced keep most properties infeasible to build multifamily housing.” 

Lander says the solution is not as simple as determining how many new homes are required to lower prices, and that many other factors are involved. 

“Where are those homes? How fast is the net population increasing?  How many people want to own a home versus rent? What type of homes are being built?  How will climate change affect the way we use those homes?” asks Lander. 

At this week’s federal government’s cabinet retreat, housing is slated to be a major topic, with Moffat and other housing experts scheduled to give presentations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers. However, Butler does not believe the federal government is serious about tackling the housing crisis. 

“If you felt it was a crisis, like you felt health care was a crisis, you would call a federal-provincial meeting like you did in the case of health care,” says Butler. “You would bring out to the provinces something along the lines of what you did with the new childcare benefit, where you drastically reduced costs of childcare in Canada…but you haven’t even done that.” 

Furthermore, Butler says there are more cynical reasons why any government may be inclined towards ensuring property prices remain high. 

“There is an incentive at all levels of government, not to knowingly reduce home prices because the most consistent voter in any election…are people over the age of 55 who own homes,” says Butler. “The classic baby boomer is very pleased with the increase in the value of the properties they bought 20 years ago, or 25 years ago, or even 15 years ago.” 

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has actively courted younger voters frustrated over unaffordable housing and pledged to attach requirements for boosting the housing supply to federal funding for municipalities. 

While the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015 in large part due to younger voters, polling has suggested that voters aged 55 and older have migrated away from the Conservatives and towards the Liberals. 

More licensing, more enforcement: There are real solutions to gun violence that won’t divide Canadians



This is part two of The Hub’s latest three-part series on gun control policies in Canada. Be sure to check out part one and part two.

In April, a joint operation between Canadian and American law enforcement agencies arrested 42 people and seized 173 firearms as part of an ongoing effort to crack down on cross-border gun smuggling.

Canada shares the world’s longest undefended border with a country that has more firearms than people, making the United States both the obvious source of illegal firearms and one that is nearly impossible to control. It’s easy to point to the United Kingdom or New Zealand and note that they have almost eliminated gun violence, but the bleak truth is that it is difficult to eradicate a phenomenon when you are intrinsically linked to its source. Nevertheless, there are improvements we can make to better combat smuggling. 

“Ontario is the only province that has a comprehensive firearm tracing program,” says the University of the Fraser Valley’s Dr. Noah Schwartz. “Doing more tracing can help uncover these smuggling networks. It’s only very recently that the government has woken up to the need for better data.” 

Dr. Schwartz argues that having more data, and more integrated law enforcement operations acting on that data, can help stem the flow of illegal firearms. Also in need of more funding are programs that flag the potential misuse of firearms. 

“If someone has a concern about a person who has guns, they can call the police, and the police have the authority to seize that person’s gun and follow up on the complaint. The tragic thing is we probably could have stopped the Nova Scotia shooting if the police had the resources to follow up on complaints that this individual had illegal firearms. There were tons of legal tools at their disposal. It just didn’t happen. But these are problems with enforcement, not control.” 

There are common sense improvements to be made to Canada’s licensing system. To accomplish them, however, the government will need to view legal gun owners as allies, not cheap political targets, says Daniel Fritter, the editor of Calibre Magazine, who suggests some straightforward changes.   

“I think we should invest more in licensing and enforcement,” Fritter says. “We have a ton of guns unaccounted for. I’d prefer to see the Firearms Program prioritise pulling more illegal guns into legal compliance. If a rural guy could access the testing material to obtain a Possession and Acquisition Licence online, he may be more likely to obtain a licence when he inherits some guns no one knows about, which then makes those guns a lot less likely to ever be sold on the black market. Or if two guys can verify each other’s PAL status online, it leads to more people checking PALs when they sell a gun, thus fewer fraudulent purchases. These are very commonly confronted use cases where the Firearms Program isn’t just well situated to interdict or prevent crime; they’re the best-positioned entity we have.” 

However, as long as there is a demand for guns, the black market will meet that demand. 

“There’s a lot law enforcement can do, but there are real limitations to plugging a hole that big. We need to focus on the reasons there is that demand for firearms, rather than focusing all of our efforts on the supply.” 

Canada’s rise in gun violence is tied to gang violence, which has increased since 2013

“The majority of gun violence, the part of the iceberg under the water, tends to be concentrated in large cities and marginalised communities, for example Indigenous communities,” Dr. Schwartz says. “And it stems from a lot of social issues we haven’t dealt with because they’re really difficult to deal with. It would take a huge amount of investment to actually get at these root causes. It’s easier to put forward flashy policies like gun bans.” 

Once someone joins a gang, it can be difficult to reverse course. 

“We have to reach out to young people from marginalised communities and try to divert them from gangs before they get so far in that it’s hard to get out,” Dr. Schwartz says. “There are really good programs that do this, but they don’t have much funding. And then once you have a criminal record, there’s a whole new layer of difficulties in trying to get a normal job and integrating into society.” 

The federal government recently pledged $250 million to the Building Safer Communities Fund, meant to “address the underlying conditions that give rise to crime,” but there are still obvious gaps in the social safety net. An Indigenous Canadian is six times more likely to be the victim of homicide and 10 times more likely to be shot by the police; not coincidentally, the Assembly of First Nations argues that federal funding to bring Indigenous homes, schools, and infrastructure up to national standards is falling short by tens of billions of dollars. A government report claims that 80 percent of Canadian firearm deaths are suicides; not coincidentally, a Canadian Mental Health Association survey found that a third of Canadians with mental health concerns failed to find help due to a lack of money or resources, even as a 2021 election pledge to put $4.5 billion towards provincial mental health programs has failed to materialise

Blaming gun violence on social woes can sound like an easy dodge and, in the United States, it is often exactly that. But that returns us to the trap of viewing Canadian gun control through America’s blood-soaked lens. Our grim irony is that increased funding for police programs will likely be unpopular to Left-leaning voters, while an expansion of social programs will be a tough sell to conservatives forever looking to cut taxes. But a failure to stop gun violence has its own costs, and Canada is spinning its wheels with control methods that have reached their limits. 

“I think anyone who says guns don’t kill people is being dishonest,” Dr. Schwartz says. “Firearms are dangerous. They should be regulated like we regulate other dangerous objects. There are reasonable policies that balance the utility of firearms as objects for sport and hunting with the danger they pose. And I think Canada’s system of licensing does a really good job of that because it focuses on assessing whether someone is a danger. At the same time, the idea that if we just got rid of legal guns the problem would go away is a complete fiction. So there are limits to the extent we can use firearms policy as a tool to reduce homicide in Canada. It’s an important tool, and I think we use it effectively. But we’re getting to a major point in diminishing returns.”