Housing chart

The federal government is launching a review into the financialization of purpose-built rental housing, following through on previous pledges to examine the role large corporations play in the residential housing market.

A review panel will look into the negative impacts for renters when financial firms and institutional investors acquire rental housing as a financial asset. It will focus on three areas through a written hearing: how the financialization of rental housing affects vulnerable and marginalized people; how the federal government may be exacerbating the issue through action or inaction; and solutions within Parliament’s jurisdiction.

Submissions will be accepted until June 23 by email or mail.

The panel conducting the review is composed of three members of the National Housing Council, an advisory body to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion created in 2020. Sam Watts, the chair, is CEO of Montreal’s Welcome Mission Hall. Maya Roy is director of research with Women at the Centre and former CEO of YWCA Canada. Ann McAfee is an adjunct professor at UBC and served as Vancouver’s first housing planner.

In the 2022 federal budget, the Liberal government said it would proceed with a review of “housing as an asset class to better understand the role of large corporate players in the market,” citing the concern that “concentration of ownership in residential housing” was leading to higher rents and house prices. The proposed review would “include the examination of a number of options and tools, including potential changes to the tax treatment of large corporate players that invest in residential real estate.”

The Liberals singled out REITs in their 2021 election platform, arguing that “large corporate owners of residential properties such as [REITs] are amassing increasingly large portfolios of Canadian rental housing, making your rent more expensive.”

In the “supply and confidence” agreement signed with the New Democratic Party last year, the Liberals promised “to tackle the financialization of the housing market by the end of 2023.”

Various reports have indicated that rental demand is outstripping supply, with prices rising accordingly. A report this month from Rentals.ca and Urbanation said average rents across Canada were up 10.8% in March from a year earlier, bringing the average rent to $2,004.

With files from Rudy Mezzetta