The long fingers of the federal government have reached down into the real estate market in some direct and indirect ways.
The March 22 Liberal budget should provide a bit more spending money for middle class families and help unemployed Calgarians with as much as an extra 20 weeks of Employment Insurance. The Feds have also found $500,000 to see what the role of homebuyers outside of Canada is in relationship with our housing market.
Calgary’s market is somewhat affected by the presence of American and Asian buyers particularly in the high-end condo market and luxury home sector. But certainly not in the same way in which Vancouver’s housing market may be affected. It’s assumed that wealthy buyers from outside the country have contributed to Vancouver’s hot housing market in a big way but there’s no empirical proof that this is so. The rise in home prices on the B.C. coast has raised questions in the industry about the true value of property, affordability for the average citizen and whether or not prices can be sustained in the future. Having information about where our buyers are coming from will help us forecast Calgary's real estate climate as well.
The half million set aside in today’s budget will be spent by Statistics Canada to fund some research into how it can best gather data on residential real estate transactions by foreign buyers. Presently, the government feels that comprehensive reliable data just isn’t out there and it would like to start collecting information on foreign buyers. The federal government would need to collaborate with the provinces, following the example of B.C. where the provincial government now wants homebuyers to disclose their country of residence.
Some of the other highlights of the federal budget which affects Calgary families include:
A new Canada child benefit which will take over the old child tax benefit and absorb the universal child care benefit. This should translate into an average increase of almost $2,300 for families starting in July 2016.
Changes to EI, including reducing the two-week waiting period before applying, making job-search requirements more simple and extending the amount of time you can collect in Canadian regions like Calgary where unemployment rates are escalating.
Unfortunately, there will be no more income splitting for couples with kids, no more fitness tax or arts tax credit for kids under 18.
This budget allows for much needed education programs and infrastructure for First Nations reserves, including those in the North. Veterans and their families will be provided for including opening up veteran’s service offices that were previously closed.
The Liberal government has also promised $2.2 billion over the next five years for green infrastructure in water and wastewater treatment facilities and waste management investment.
When it comes to affordable housing in our country, the need is urgent. The government has promised as much as $178 million over two years for the provinces to pick up the pace and get low income Canadians into their own home.
The list goes on and on, including funding for arts and culture (good news for the CBC).
The Liberals warned us that there would be a deficit and at nearly $30 billion dollars, this budget is three times the deficit that they said it would be.
As our country races towards its 150th Anniversary next year, we’ll see how it all unfolds.