Hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity con­tin­ues to be a hot topic

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Mike Moore

LAST week we in­tro­duced the topic of hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity as a part of the an­nual hous­ing fo­rum hosted by the Man­i­toba Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion. This topic has cer­tainly gained trac­tion in re­cent weeks. The ur­ban coun­cil of the Cana­dian Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion has iden­ti­fied af­ford­abil­ity as the pri­mary point of con­cern. The board of direc­tors of the MHBA has echoed that sen­ti­ment and de­clared that this would be the fo­cus of the as­so­ci­a­tion in the com­ing year. Although con­sid­er­ably more de­tail will have to be brought to the fore­front, gen­eral aware­ness is key to any such ef­fort. We can’t work to­gether on a so­lu­tion if we don’t ac­knowl­edge that there’s a prob­lem. A study in Ot­tawa was ref­er­enced. Over the past 25 years, me­dian fam­ily in­comes have in­creased from $49,445 to $97,010. Dur­ing the same time pe­riod, a new home in Ot­tawa has in­creased from $155,000 to $440,912. The per­cent­age in­crease in Win­nipeg is likely to be at least that much, if not more. It was re­vealed at the fo­rum that 27.64 per cent of the price of a new home goes to the var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment. That means that on a $444,675 new home (land and house), $122,890 is di­rectly at­trib­uted to charges by a gov­ern­ment agency. Th­ese charges in­clude provin­cial sales tax, GST, land trans­fer tax, build­ing and de­vel­op­ment per­mit fees, prop­erty taxes, costs of pub­lic ameni­ties, in­fra­struc­ture costs and charges and other re­lated fees. It is th­ese fees that have grown at a much faster rate than costs of build­ing ma­te­ri­als or labour. Are we at a break­ing point? No, I wouldn’t say that. How­ever, we are at a warn­ing point. We can’t con­tinue to price our chil­dren out of a place to live. Oth­er­wise, they’re never go­ing to leave our homes. Boomers bought in times of high in­ter­est rates and are at the point of con­sid­er­ing down­siz­ing. Many own their homes out­right after many years of hard work and dis­ci­plined pay­ments. In­ter­est rates con­tinue to be ex­tremely favourable but, if the Boomer can’t af­ford to move be­cause they would take on new debt and the Mil­lenial can’t af­ford to buy be­cause the mar­ket is out of reach, we have a stale­mate. Too of­ten, the al­ter­na­tive is to look else­where and we can’t al­low that to hap­pen.

Mike Moore is pres­i­dent of the Man­i­toba Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

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