Honourable Tony Loffreda Independent Canadian Senator (Québec)
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight…”
If only everyone’s Holidays could be filled with light and trouble-free, but the reality is that after two years of pandemic, many Canadians continue to struggle to make ends meet, and the increasing cost of living is making it increasingly more difficult for them.
As families and friends gather this Holiday Season, whether it be at church, at the synagogue, at the mosque, or around the dinner table or among loved ones at the restaurant, I hope everyone will feel a small glimmer of hope that better days are ahead.
As I helped shepherd the government’s Fall Economic Statement Implement Act (Bill C-32) through the Senate this past month as its sponsor, I was reminded of some of the many challenges families face, including affordable housing. One recent statistic that struck a chord with me, but did not surprise me, is that the proportion of Canadian households who own their home fell to 66.5% in 2021 after peaking in 2011 at 69%. We are also witnessing a much stronger growth in renter households compared to owner households.
Not only is basic housing becoming unattainable for many Canadians due to the increasing cost of rent, but the dream of home ownership is also becoming increasingly unaffordable for too many young families.
The government is quite sensitive to these challenges which is why it introduced a suite of measures in Bill C-32 to help redress this issue. First, the government wants to help Canadians who are struggling to make a down payment by encouraging them to save by providing first-time home buyers the ability to contribute up to $8,000 per year on a tax-free basis through the new Tax-Free First Home Savings Account. Second, the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit is doubling from $5,000 to $10,000. Third, Bill C-32 includes the Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit for eligible expenses to create a secondary unit to permit an eligible person such as a senior or an adult with a disability to live with a qualifying relation.
Finally, a new anti-flipping rule will help ensure profits from flipping homes are taxed as business income if the seller held the property for less than 12 months. This would ensure that investors flipping houses just for the sake of making a profit pay their fair share, which hopefully, will help reduce housing prices for Canadians who want to buy a property and actually live in it.
While it doesn’t directly address housing affordability, the government is also permanently eliminating interest accruals on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans. This measure should benefit 1.2 million borrowers and help new graduates entering the workforce an opportunity to set aside these savings towards a new home.
Bill C-32 will not solve Canada’s housing problem, but they are intended to help make home ownership more accessible. And the good news is that the legislation received Royal Assent on December 15th. I’m hopeful many Canadian families will take advantage of these new measures as they inch their way closer to realizing their dream of home ownership. Beyond these housing-related measures in Bill C-32, the government has also made housing supply a priority, namely through its $72-billion National Housing Strategy.
When I look back at the purchase of my first home, I fondly recall the feeling of pride and accomplishment. It was a source of security and dignity for my young family. Today, all those years later, I know I am among those most fortunate to have a roof over his head and to have a place I call home.
And as the Holiday classic reminds us, “someday soon we all will be together if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow so, have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”
With the Holidays just around the corner, I hope you will all have an opportunity to be together with your loved ones. As I gather with my family, I will certainly count my blessings and have a special thought for those who may not have the luxury of owning their home and those who may not even have a place to call home.
And if you can, take a bit of time during the Holidays to donate your time or money to charity. Almost one-quarter of Canadians plan on making use of charitable services in the next six months to meet their essential needs such as food, clothing, or shelter.