GOLDSTEIN: Liberal immigration policy sabotages Liberal housing policy

Everyone in the Liberal government is saying something has to be done about the immigration policies it created that have contributed to today’s affordable housing crisis

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Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser’s year-end announcement in an interview with The Canadian Press that the Trudeau government will unveil a “renewed” housing plan in 2024 raises the question of what happened to all of its previous housing plans?

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The Liberals have been coming up with new housing plans ever since the 2015 election that brought them to power.

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In 2017, they announced their National Housing Strategy – originally a 10-year, $40-billion plan which has since grown to more than $82 billion, slated to run until March 2028, “to give more Canadians a place to call home.”

The problem is their immigration policies are undermining their housing policies, presumably one of the things their latest “renewed” housing plan is intended to address, in another example of the Liberals announcing new plans to fix problems caused by their previous plans.

When Fraser was immigration minister last year, he proudly announced the Liberals’ “ambitious” plan to boost Canada’s annual immigration targets to 465,000 permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025, thus putting enormous pressure on Canada’s housing market and undermining housing affordability.

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The Liberals have since announced their target for 2026 will be another 500,000 permanent residents, compared to 272,000 when the Liberals came to power in 2015.

Canada will also accept a record 900,000 international students this year compared to 352,000 in 2015, according to current Immigration Minister Marc Miller.

Now add to that the fact Canada admitted 220,000 temporary foreign workers last year, an increase of 68% compared to 2021, according to a Globe and Mail analysis of federal data.

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The cumulative result of these policies, as Statistics Canada reported earlier this month, is that, “Canada’s population was estimated at 40,528,396 on Oct. 1, 2023, an increase of 430,635 people (+1.1%) from July 1 … the highest population growth rate in any quarter since the second quarter of 1957 (+1.2%), when Canada’s population grew by 198,000 people …

“Canada’s total population growth for the first nine months of 2023 (+1,030,378 people) had already exceeded the total growth for any other full-year period since Confederation in 1867, including 2022, when there was a record growth.”

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Now, everyone in the Liberal government from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on down is saying something has to be done about the immigration policies it created that have contributed to today’s affordable housing crisis.

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But the Liberals are focusing on abuses in the international student and temporary worker programs, rather than their dramatic increases to Canada’s immigration levels.

On that issue, the Liberals insist, Canada needs more immigrants to build more housing, because, as Miller put it in August, “Without those skilled workers coming from outside Canada, we absolutely cannot build the homes and meet the demand that exists currently today.”

But numerous critics have pointed out the logical fallacy with this argument.

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As the TD Bank warned: “Continuing with a high-growth immigration strategy could widen the housing shortfall by about a half-million units within just two years. Recent government policies to accelerate construction are unlikely to offer a stop-gap due to the short time period and the natural lags in adjusting supply.”

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The National Bank of Canada cautioned: “The federal government’s decision to open the immigration floodgates during the most aggressive monetary tightening cycle in a generation has created a record imbalance between housing and demand … As housing affordability pressures continue to mount across the country, we believe Ottawa should consider revising its immigration targets to allow supply to catch up with demand.”

BMO (Bank of Montreal) reported, “Heightened immigration flows designed to ease labour supply pressure immediately add to the housing demand they are trying to meet … The infrastructure in place and the industry’s ability to build clearly can’t support unchecked levels of demand, so the affordability conundrum continues.”

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Deputy Bank of Canada governor Toni Gravelle noted in a recent speech, as reported by The Canadian Press, that, “this jump in demographic demand coupled with the existing structural supply issues could explain why rent inflation continues to climb in Canada. It also helps explain, in part, why housing prices have not fallen as much as we had expected.”

To be sure, Canada’s affordable housing shortage isn’t solely attributable to federal immigration policy – high interest rates are another factor along with the impact of provincial and municipal housing policies.

Long term, the Trudeau government argues, Canada needs high immigration levels to provide the workers of the future, due to low domestic birth rates.

But that said, and as the Trudeau government continues to announce new deals with municipalities to build more housing, remember their current high immigration polices are undermining those efforts.

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