The federal finance committee got an earful Tuesday from one group not too thrilled with the housing boom — Canadian landlords.
John Dickie, president of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, said at least part of the housing boom over the past decade can be attributed to the government favouring housing over rental accommodation by providing a much larger subsidy.
“There are a number of rules in the current tax system that amount to massive favoritism towards homeowners as opposed to renters,” said Mr. Dickie Tuesday, adding it’s true for all three levels of government.
In Ontario, the group estimates, municipal, provincial and federal governments provide a subsidy of $2,629 per owner-occupied house, compared to $395 per renter.
“There is a perception among politicians that homeowners vote more frequently than tenants,” said Mr. Dickie. “There is perception in society that homeownership is good and should be encouraged.”
Homeownership rates in Canada have climbed steadily over the past decade and are now closing in on about 70% of households, something Mr. Dickie said “pushes it further than it should.”
Federal subsidies include such things as a rebate on the goods and services tax on new homes and the home-renovation tax credit. Capital gains on the sale of a principal residence are also exempt from federal and provincial taxes.
Though it varies by city, homeowners generally pay less property taxes than landlords. In Ottawa, Mr. Dickie said, landlords pay property tax of 1.7% of the value of the home, compared to 1% of the value for homeowners. Condominium owners, who rent out their space, get the residential rate in most municipalities.
He said renters should be concerned about the disparity. “They don’t know they are getting ripped because it’s the owners that cut the cheques.”
Craig Alexander, chief economist with TD Bank Financial Group, said homeownership has long been a goal of Western society.
“There is no question the policy environment provides incentives and support to homeowners,” he said.
But there is a risk subsidizing the sector, he said. “In the case of the United States, one could make the argument that part of what fuelled the housing bubble was oversubsidization of the housing market or maybe just excessive public-policy support for homeownership.”