What’s your candidate’s plan for the Ottawa housing market?

 While other industries with far less impact have been in the spotlight during the Canadian federal election campaign, a government that understands the challenges of the home building industry is undeniably the best one to grow our economy.

After one of the longest writ periods in history, Election Day is finally right around the corner. With such a long campaign, with announcements coming nearly every day, it can be difficult for the average voter to distill all the various party platforms, promises, and programs and arrive at a decision. However, an examination of the various political parties’ positions on issues that impact the home building industry delivers useful insights.

In a city like Ottawa, one of the primary driving forces of the economy is housing. Home building, and all the related activities surrounding it such as, decorating, furnishing, renovations, and landscaping, power the local economy. A house is the largest single investment any family will likely ever make, and the economic benefits ripple throughout the economy for years after the initial purchase.

Despite its economic importance, the industry is under increasing pressure due to more regulation, new fees and taxes, and a soft Ottawa employment picture. When you consider that over a ten-year average, the housing industry annually generates about 30,000 skilled jobs, $3.1 billion in spending; $1.5 billion in wages; and $288 million in federal and provincial taxes, it is clear that such a vital sector should not be taken for granted.

In Ottawa, one of the most important factors in economic stability is the health of the Federal public service workforce. As the largest single employer in the Ottawa region, the public service needs long-term stability to allow the local economy to thrive. Even the threat of employment insecurity can have a dampening effect on the housing market. While the Ottawa region has seen a welcome resurgence of technology jobs lately, it’s still the public sector that drives growth, consumer demand, and both public and private sector jobs. Employment in the public service has been steadily declining over the past few years while the government sought to balance the budget. Now that the books are in order, job stability will provide the capital region marketplace with the chance to adapt to the new ‘normal’.

The affordability trap

The average new home buyer is already faced with an onslaught of taxes and fees that negatively impact the housing market. With current Ottawa housing prices and property taxes already at record highs, any new fees, taxes, or regulations that increase the cost of housing will serve only to make the dream of home ownership less attainable for many. For first time buyers, saving a down payment is no longer the biggest hurdle, it’s the myriad of government-mandated fees and taxes that pushes the purchase of a new home beyond reach. As boomers age and downsize, it’s new home buyers who will drive the housing market in the coming years. Young families need to have the same kind of access to the housing market that their parents and grandparents once did.

The recently signed Trans Pacific Partnership has created headlines about the possibility of lost manufacturing jobs, but government can support good paying, local jobs that positively impact the housing market—skilled trades. Skilled trades have tremendous advantages in the labour market: they are in high demand in Ottawa and are difficult to outsource overseas. The lack of skilled tradespeople in the national capital region increases the cost of labour. This is directly reflected in the price of new homes and impacts affordability across the board. As local young people are making education and training decisions for their future careers, they should be encouraged to investigate the skilled trades, a key growth area, and they should be supported in their pursuit of these key skills our modern economy demands.

In Ottawa, the time has come to understand the effects that government policies have on the engines of growth. When evaluating the platforms of the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and Greens, ask the candidates in your riding how they plan on helping boost the housing market in Ottawa. Which party has the right plan to ensure your home is a source of stability and growth for your family and the economy?

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