Real Estate Market

The removal of GST will have an ‘immediate’ impact on rental builds

Just days after Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation warned of a dire housing shortage, the Canadian federal government announced it would remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the construction of new apartment buildings for renters. To build more rental housing, the removal of GST will apply to new purpose-built rentals, meaning apartment buildings, student housing, and senior residences built specifically for long-term rental accommodation.

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) said the federal government’s move addresses a long-standing issue that has prevented the construction of more rental housing for decades.

The impact will be “immediate”

High-interest rates have further eroded the viability of purpose-built rental projects this year, shelving much-needed new housing supply. This elimination of GST should help get those projects back on track, said the national organization.

“This is something we have called for for a long time and is a measure that will continue to be necessary for many years to come to ensure much more rental housing supply is built. Purpose-built rental is an important part of the housing continuum and a must to be among the 5.8 million homes that Canada needs to build over the next decade to make up the housing deficit,” said CHBA CEO Kevin Lee.

“The business model for purpose-built rental has been broken for decades just with the taxation system around it. We saw it in terms of purpose-built rental starts over the past 20, even 30 years. There just hasn’t been enough, and it’s because the model didn’t work. So being able to change the taxation regime around purpose-built rental will make a big difference, especially right now because we’ve seen with high-interest rates a lot of rental projects that would have gone forward just being shelved.”

Lee said the impact will be immediate, and the construction of more purpose-built rental supply will have an impact on the rents people are paying.

“It certainly should because one of the huge issues we have in Canada is, unfortunately, it’s now well-documented, is we have a massive housing shortage of all forms of housing and all forms of tenure. Vacancy rates are incredibly low, and that, of course, drags up rent, and in the homeownership market, it drives up prices. So we need more supply of all forms. By building more purpose-built rentals, we’re going to hopefully see less tight markets, and that should get rental rates down to a more reasonable level moving forward.”

3.45 million homes needed by 2030 to restore affordability 

The CMHC said recently that Canada needs about 3.45 million additional housing units by 2030 to restore affordability in the country.

In a Twitter post, Kendal Harazny, co-founder and principal of Wexford Developments in Calgary, said: “This is huge. I estimate we will build 1000 units that were on hold solely due to this.”

In an interview with Real Estate Magazine, Harazny said every developer has been dealing with massive cost increases in the last 24 months.

“With interest rates tripling on construction debt, it’s chipped away at the feasibility of pretty much any rental project in almost any market in the country,” he said. “Now, there were projects here and there that still worked for a variety of reasons, but as a whole, the industry has ground to a halt because you can’t build an apartment building for a reasonable return.

“So when you’re talking about decreasing costs from 3.6 to 5.0 per cent, that’s enough to move the needle on a significant number of projects that are in the pipeline across the country.

“If you speak to anyone in the industry, there are developers all over the country who have projects ready to go that are on hold simply because the numbers did not work. And I think there are probably hundreds of projects that will now immediately go because the numbers do work. This makes up for the massive increase in costs and interest rates we’ve seen, and so I do think you’ll see this program spark construction across the country.”
“While the GST has been removed, it’s not like we all of a sudden have increased our capacity of trades in the country. “

– Kendal Harazny, Wexford Developments
But Harazny said the concern he has is he doesn’t think the country has the trade base to handle this sudden demand.

“Before this announcement, on projects we were doing all over Western Canada, we were still struggling to find trades and get reasonable bids. While the GST has been removed, it’s not like we all of a sudden have increased our capacity of trades in the country. I think that will be the biggest bottleneck,” he said.

Harazny said a typical building cycle for a project is four to five years from start to finish and is very much dependent on the municipality.

He said about 400 residential units are ready to roll for Wexford, and the rest need to be revisited and re-underwritten. The big unknown will be construction costs, given the new surge in demand. 

Jennifer Keesmaat, founding partner of Markee Developments in Toronto, said in a tweet that the forgiveness of the GST on rental housing will do two things: tip some new housing developments that have been put on ice due to high-interest rates back into construction, which will lead to more supply and incentivize some developers to build rental housing, instead of condos.

She said the federal decision is significant and potentially “the beginning of a sea change.”

Chris Guerette, CEO of the Saskatchewan Realtors Association, said the federal move is a step in the right direction towards improving housing supply challenges as the province’s residential housing industry faces a significant gap in housing inventory to accommodate future growth projections. 

“Inventory levels continue to be a concern across all segments of our housing continuum, and we know this type of rebate can work in our province,” she said. 

“Similar support is also needed for first-time homebuyers so that renters who want to can achieve their dreams of homeownership.”
– CHBA statement

With the elimination of GST on purpose-built rental at the federal level, it will now be very important that provincial governments follow suit with their own taxes on purpose-built rental, said the CHBA. 

“Also very critical is the need for municipalities to reduce their development taxes on not only purpose-built rental but all housing (including for homeownership). Municipal development taxes have gone up some 700 per cent over the past two decades, with taxes comprising as much as 30 per cent of the price of a home today. This needs to change,” it said.

“With some financial relief to now enable more rental housing to be built, similar support is also needed for first-time homebuyers so that renters who want to can achieve their dreams of homeownership.”

In a report, Rachel Battaglia, an economist at RBC Economics, said that with rental vacancy rates at a two-decade low and Canada’s rental housing stock sitting in a severe shortage, any measure to boost rental apartment construction is certainly welcome.

“The five per cent GST on new rental construction (including land value and construction costs) discouraged developers from pursuing purpose-built rental apartment projects. In fact, developers have long preferred to build condominiums over rental housing projects on the basis of higher profitability and the possibility to reinvest proceeds into subsequent construction projects,” she said.

“Since tenants aren’t obligated to pay the five per cent GST on top of their regular rent, developers are typically left holding the tax bill. GST on condos, on the other hand, is generally baked into the purchase price of the unit, allowing the builder to offload the tax burden onto the new homebuyer.

“While the removal of GST on rental construction projects will improve their financial viability — and, with it, hopefully spur more development — it isn’t likely to lower rents in short order.”

Battaglia writes this won’t be a silver bullet, “More policy action — at all levels of government — will be needed to really move the needle on rental supply and affect rent. This includes modernizing zoning by-laws to accommodate high-density development, streamline the permitting prices for new construction, and ensure other fees, taxes, and policies are in line with the broader goal of expanding the rental housing stock in Canada.”

Federal government removes GST from new apartment construction

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government would remove the goods and services tax (GST) from the construction of new rental apartments to help accelerate the development of fresh housing supply.
The move, which has previously been widely recommended by market observers, came amid growing criticism of the Liberal administration’s seeming incapacity to address the housing affordability crisis.

“The federal government should listen to other levels of government to improve the targeting of transfers and minimize the frictions that are preventing more homes from being built,” Desjardins said recently. “It should consider other tax incentives as well, such as foregoing the GST/HST on purpose‑built rental construction.”

Trudeau said that this was just the first in a set of housing-focused measures that the federal government will be introducing, CBC reported.
Municipalities which are planning to access the federal housing accelerator fund will now be required to revoke or alter unreasonably restrictive zoning policies.

Trudeau also called on market players to devise effective plans to stabilize grocery prices in the “near-term”, with the prime minister warning of government-imposed solutions if grocers do not supply these plans by Thanksgiving.

10 Steps to Make Sure Your Home Is Ready for Winter

1. Insulate Pipes 
Any exposed pipe that runs along a wall or is in an unheated area (a basement or a crawl space, for example) is a potential hazard. The water inside can freeze and cause the pipe to burst when temperatures drop below 32 F.

2. Inspect Tree Branches 
Scan your property for branches growing over the house, garage, driveway, or power lines. During a storm, those could come down and cause major damage. Branches rubbing together can also lead to breakage.

3. Clean Out Gutters 
If gutters are clogged with leaves, the debris can freeze into a big, icy mass, which could get under shingles and damage the roof. Get a tall ladder and work gloves, and scoop out the debris so water can drain.

4. Prevent Door Locks From Freezing 
If you've ever had this problem or you live in a super-cold climate, spray a little powdered-graphite lubricant into each door lock (where the key goes), then turn the key in the lock. The powder (sold at hardware stores) lubricates the pins inside the lock to prevent sticking. Do this once a season.

5. Drain Sprinklers 
If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, remove any residual water before the first freeze so it doesn't expand and crack the pipes. Your best bet is to hire an irrigation contractor to blow out the water using compressed air.

6. Cut Back Perennials 
It's fine to keep some intact. Those with a pretty shape (coneflowers, ornamental grass) look nice even in winter. But most deciduous perennials—plants that shed their leaves annually (like asters, irises, and lilies)—do best with an aggressive trim, Using clippers or a hedge trimmer, cut plants to 2 - 3 inches above the ground. 

7. Mulch Flower Beds 
Sometime before the coldest winter temps hit, add a layer of hardwood mulch to all your flower beds. "Mulching at this time of year helps regulate changes in soil temperature, buffering the plants from brutally low temperatures to come. Without it, roots are vulnerable to significant damage and the plants could die.

8. Block Drafts 
Hold a lit candle along each windowsill and baseboard. See it flicker? That signals a draft. For each draft that you eliminate, you can increase your home's energy-efficiency, For baseboards, clean and dry the area with a paper towel. Then, using white or clear paintable caulking, fill in gaps between the trim and the floor with an even bead. Smooth with a wet finger, then remove the excess with a damp cloth. To seal drafty windows and doors, use draft stoppers like weather stripping (around the frame) or window-film kits (over the glass; both available at hardware stores).

9. Get the Fireplace Cleaned 
If you use a wood-burning fireplace more than six times a year, you should have it professionally cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep annually.

10. Have the Furnace Checked 
At the beginning of winter, hire an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) contractor to make sure your furnace or boiler is operating safely and efficiently.