Speaking Notes for
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Canadian Real Estate Association Political Action Committee Days
11 Colonel By Drive
October 16, 2017
Check against delivery
Good morning everyone. Thank you for inviting me to meet with you today. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Housing is of fundamental importance to each and every one of us.
As real estate professionals, I probably don’t need to tell you that. You know how housing and the state of housing markets are hot topics these days. You see and hear about all the latest trends and data every day, and you hear it from your clients.
You understand that, for many Canadians, a home is the single most important investment they will ever make. Not only is it a storehouse of personal wealth and economic security, it’s a central part of their hopes and dreams.
However, you also understand that, for too many hard-working Canadians, living and working in the same community is something they can simply no longer afford.
For that matter, for too many Canadians, a decent place to live is something they can no longer afford.
And too many face impossible choices like paying for shelter over buying healthy food; staying in one’s home over paying for prescriptions; or staying with an abuser over risking a night in a shelter or on the streets.
These realities have prompted a national conversation that has focused on a number of important questions.
What is behind the high house prices in large urban centres, particularly Vancouver and Toronto?
Is homeownership becoming out of reach for middle-class Canadians in some communities?
Do we have a housing bubble in Canada – and is that bubble about to burst?
These are more complex questions than they may seem. And we are working to get the reliable data we need to answer them credibly, so we can develop informed responses and shape public policies that meet the needs of as many Canadians as possible.
Our Government understands that we must do the hard work and heavy lifting to get this right.
As the Minister responsible for Housing, I’m honoured that the Prime Minister has asked me to lead our efforts on this important work.
And make no mistake, we know – I know – just how important this work is.
I know that a home is more than just a roof over one’s head. It is a refuge and a launch pad.
It is a place where Canadian families can thrive, where they feel safe, and where they can feel confident about their future and the future of their children.
Home is where children learn and grow, where families share stories around the dinner table, where parents find the stability to succeed in the job market, and where the elderly live in dignity.
So when we hear talk of housing bubbles and market crashes, we take notice. Household debt is at record levels in Canada – and most of that debt is in mortgages. Significant price corrections could have devastating impacts for indebted families, undermine market stability, and hurt Canada’s economy.
There’s no question that certain housing markets are overheated. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which falls under my portfolio, tells us that there is “strong evidence of problematic conditions” at the national level.
CMHC has found strong evidence of overvaluation in house prices in Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton and Victoria – which likely will not surprise many of you. CMHC also sees evidence of overbuilding, particularly in the Prairies.
Ultimately, the long-term financial security of Canadian families depends on sustainable debt levels and stable housing markets. That’s why our Government has implemented a number of measures to ensure Canada has healthy, competitive and stable housing markets.
Shortly after we came into office, Finance Minister Morneau took action to address pockets of risk by requiring more money down on homes priced above $500,000.
Last fall, Minister Morneau also announced a new mortgage stress test for all insured mortgages and took steps to improve tax fairness by closing loopholes surrounding the capital gains tax exemption on the sale of a principal residence.
We understand that some of Minister Morneau’s decisions may not have been particularly popular amongst people in this room. We recognize that they may have created some short-term challenges. But we also understand that in the long-term, these decisions will be good for Canada’s real-estate sector, and good for all Canadians.
These measures were taken to help protect Canadians’ financial security and to promote the long-term strength, stability, and resiliency of Canada’s housing markets and financial system. Our Government will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.
And we know there’s more to do.
As I said at the outset, too many hard-working Canadians are being priced out of the communities where they work.
More teachers should be able to live in the communities where they teach; more police officers should be able to live in the communities they protect; and more seniors should be able to live close to their loved ones.
In my role as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, I am particularly concerned about the many Canadian families who are struggling to afford a decent home – whether they are buying or renting.
Across Canada, 1.5 million families are in housing need. These people live in homes that are inadequate or unaffordable. Another 25,000 Canadians are chronically homeless. This needs to change.
And that’s why our government is currently in the process of developing Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy. I’m proud and honoured that the Prime Minister has asked me to lead in its creation.
The National Housing Strategy represents the most ambitious federal leadership in almost 50 years.
There are three basic principles to our Strategy, which will be led by CMHC and will encompass the entire housing continuum, from homelessness to homeownership.
First, focus on the most vulnerable, like seniors, survivors of domestic violence, Indigenous Canadians, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and veterans.
Second, collaborate with more partners. We need everyone at the table. We need to hear all voices. We will work with the provinces and territories, with cities and the private and non-profit sectors to create housing that is better for the environment, supports vibrant, inclusive communities and, most importantly, improves the lives of Canadians.
Third, reduce homelessness. We are doubling federal investments to tackle homelessness, because when someone is forced to live on the streets, we are all diminished.
Our plan will deliver concrete results for Canadians. Over the next 10 years, 500,000 more Canadian families will finally get an affordable home that meets their needs. The Strategy will also will help cut chronic and episodic homelessness in half over this period.
The National Housing Strategy will make our neighbourhoods better places to live, in homes Canadian families can afford.
I know that this is a goal we all share.
We understand the value of home. We recognize the struggles of Canadians to find adequate and affordable housing, and we are determined to make a difference.
I know Canadians can count on the real estate industry to be an active and constructive partner in making that difference, and in shaping a more inclusive Canada for generations to come.