Claims CMHC is funding home equity tax research ‘inaccurate’

Stephanie Hughes
Financial Journalist
REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) says claims it invested $250,000 in federal home equity tax research are “not accurate”. A CMHC media relations representative told Yahoo Finance Canada in an e-mail that the funding will be used for the Solutions Lab initiative in an 18-month project to improve housing affordability in Canada, exploring an array of solutions.

The initiative, launched in 2018 under the National Housing Strategy, is working with the University of British Columbia organization, Generation Squeeze, to identify affordable housing solutions.

“While the project includes a research component, it is primarily focused on confirming the issues,” a CMHC spokeswoman explained. “Once the issues have been further analyzed, the most promising solutions will be further developed with stakeholders, prototyped, tested and prioritized for possible implementation and scaling.”

In other words, the CMHC has not outlined any plans to implement a concrete strategy from this initiative, let alone any tax-related policies. The organization has further clarified the purpose of the research initiative on Twitter:

Adam Vaughan, a Liberal party member of parliament in Ontario, said, “We as a government have not asked for such a study and are not aware of any such study, nor has CMHC commissioned one to our knowledge,” in a discussion with Mortgage Professionals Canada on Friday morning.

A spokesperson for Generation Squeeze said in an e-mail to Yahoo Finance Canada, “The 18-month project is currently in the design stage, with sessions expected to begin in September 2020. The specific solutions of focus will be determined by the stakeholders themselves once the process begins. More information about this project will become available once the sessions are underway. A final report outlining the Solutions Lab activities and participants will be published at the end of the project in early 2021.” 

The article by Blacklock’s Reporter prompted swift criticism on Twitter with users arguing that this policy would be punitive for homeowners.

Over the weekend, Evan Siddall, the CEO of CMHC, addressed the report on Twitter, saying, "We are co-funding a Solution Lab on housing wealth and inequality. We do not control the agenda nor the research base, which is a minor component of the protocol. The objective of the open-ended Lab is to identify solutions that could improve the housing outcomes for renters and homeowners of all ages."

In response, the Blacklock's Reporter took to Twitter, providing more details on the invitation from the Solutions Lab initiative.

The CMHC provided Yahoo Finance Canada with a complete copy of the invitation from the Solutions Lab initiative, where it states that the initiative hopes to address the question "After-COVID, how can we treat housing as a place to call home, rather than an investment vehicle?"

There were confirmed policy directives or research plans outlined in the invitation. The first session, called "Making the problem visible" is scheduled for September 9, 2020. 

The CMHC provided an invitation for the Solutions Lab initiative to Yahoo Finance Canada. It invited participants to take part in the first online meeting on September 09 for discussions surrounding issues and solutions surrounding housing affordability.