Trudeau hails ‘most ambitious housebuilding plan in Canadian history’

A Montreal housing estate in autumn (Rodrigolab/Dreamstime)
Canada has announced a plan to ease the country’s housing crisis by leasing public land to developers with a target of getting 3.9 million houses built by 2031, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s budget day, he didn’t say how much the scheme would cost but said it would be “the most comprehensive and ambitious housing plan ever seen in Canada”.

The country has been hit by soaring housing costs. Over the past six years, the average price of a house has risen 38%, from US$356,000 to $493,000.

The government plans to lease underused land, such as that occupied by abandoned industrial parks, defunct government companies or schools with low enrollment. The aim is to bring housing costs down to 30% of an average income.

The government says the increase in available land would lead to the construction of 2 million homes, leaving another 1.9 million to come from other programmes.

The plan still falls 1.2 million units short of what is needed from 2023 to 2030, according to national housing agency Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

The Liberal government has announced a number of policy initiatives to address the crisis over the past two weeks.

Housing has emerged as a battleground between the Liberal and Conservative parties, and is credited with a fall in the approval rating for the governing party.

In the latest poll, the Liberals were 20 percentage points behind their rival. In other recent polls, 72% of Canadian’s consulted said they wanted Trudeau to resign.

The provision of accommodation in Canada is largely the responsibility of the 10 provinces and the governments of major municipalities. Ottawa, which has no direct role in construction, relies on policy measures and funding to boost supply.

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