POLITICS

Liberals' Social Housing Plan Means Tax Breaks For Landlords, Homeowers

09/09/2015 10:48 EDT | Updated 09/09/2016 05:12 EDT

TORONTO — The federal Liberals are promising to let Canadians dip into their registered retirement savings more often to pay for a home, which Justin Trudeau said may be their best source of equity heading into their twilight years.

At a campaign stop Wednesday in downtown Toronto, Trudeau said his party would allow Canadians to repeatedly dig into their RRSPs to pay for a home if they have to move for work or the death of a spouse, see their marriage break down or take in an elderly relative.

Current rules only allow Canadians to use their RRSPs to finance the purchase of their first home.

Under the Liberal plan, there would be no limit on how often Canadians could dip into their RRSPs to buy a home. But Liberal officials say they don't expect Canadians would use the program so often that it would become financially problematic.

The withdrawal limit would remain $25,000 for each transaction.

Whether Canadians are saving enough to pay for retirement has been the subject of competing reports and studies. However, a political battle is underway over whether workers should be required to pay more into their federal and provincial pension plans or given more private avenues to save for retirement.

Trudeau said that for many Canadians approaching retirement, the only savings they have is the equity in their home.

He said it makes sense to allow people who face a sudden or unexpected change in their lives "to be able to invest in stability in a way that will help them in the long term as well."

"I think our proposal to extend the capacity to invest — to draw from your RRSPs and responsible amounts to help the cost of a new home — is something that will help Canadians in concrete ways," Trudeau said.

He also announced a proposed package to pay for social and affordable housing. The plan includes a promise to eliminate the GST on all new rental builds in the country while giving up to $125 million a year to landlords renovating aging rental units.

Trudeau unveiled the pledge at a co-operative housing complex in downtown Toronto alongside Spadina-Fort York candidate Adam Vaughan, who is in a high-profile race against the NDP's Olivia Chow.

Chow won the seat in the 2011 election before leaving to make a failed bid for the Toronto mayoralty.

Trudeau made his announcement in an area where new condos continue to colonize the city's skyline. It also tied in with a Liberal promise to study hot housing markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver to determine what is driving up the cost of homes and condos.

The Conservatives made a similar commitment in Vancouver last month, tapping into concerns that foreign buyers were snapping up properties and driving up prices while the units themselves remain empty.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper hinted that his party would look into ways to curb foreign ownership of Canadian homes — a theme Trudeau also picked up on.

"If there are issues of speculation, then yes, the federal government has potential tools to step in, in concert with the province and the municipalities who, of course, know best what challenges their communities are facing," Trudeau said, a day before he campaigns in Vancouver.

Trudeau is scheduled to fly later Wednesday to Edmonton, where he will meet with Mayor Don Iveson and hold a rally with supporters.

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