After tighter mortgage rules Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced in December failed to cool the market, he sought to devolve some of the responsibility to the provinces and cities, with British Columbia’s move the first salvo in those efforts. A failure in B.C. could make it more difficult for the federal government to resist pressure to become more active.
“One thing that is very hard for governments to learn, and this is a new government very much in the learning process, is that there are some issues you don’t want to take responsibility for,” Dodge said. “The housing market in Vancouver is not an issue that the federal government really ought to take responsibility for.”
PT: Not the first time have the federal Liberals opted out of housing programs and policy. Most significantly, the Liberals under Chretien stopped new funding for the construction of affordable housing in 1993. Most provinces followed. The money that remained for social housing was only for targeted groups, and, as always, insufficient to address larger needs as homelessness emerged in Canadian cities.
It was assumed that the market could address the larger need for the kind of housing that gave most Canadians access to homeownership, as it traditionally had – and that it was largely local governments’ responsibility to facilitate its production.
It has taken two decades for the consequences of that abandonment of housing incentives and assistance to become apparent, whether for low-end-of-market or non-market housing, whether for rent or purchase, whether for tax incentives to developers or income assistance to the poor. And consequently there is now no simple policy lever than can address a generational need most apparent in places like Vancouver.