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Economic Viewpoint

Written Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

November 20, 2023
Randall Bartlett
Senior Director of Canadian Economics

Housing in Canada is in crisis. As the situation has become more serious, all levels of government have been forced to recognize that something must be done urgently. But while sharply higher supply is widely recognized as the path forward, there is little agreement on how to make that happen.

Home construction today is below the pace seen during the 1970s when the Baby Boomers came of age, despite our current population being larger and growing more quickly. But the housing crisis is not only that the number of homes being built is insufficient. The type of housing is also inadequate. Detached homes are getting larger while condominiums and apartments are getting smaller and at the same time more expensive by the square foot. Semi‑detached, rowhouses and low‑rise apartments—the so‑called ‘missing middle’—are essentially a rounding error in Canada’s housing stock.

All levels of government bear some responsibility for the current crisis. But the good news is that each can take steps to increase the supply of housing in Canada. We recently published a report outlining over 20 measures that have been introduced internationally to increase the supply of housing and relieve affordability pressures. However, the most important takeaway from this analysis is that there is no silver bullet that will solve Canada’s housing crisis. Instead, it is a combination of different policies introduced by all levels of government in a coordinated fashion that will help to increase homebuilding. We must have all hands on deck and pulling in the same direction.