Housing and education issues discussed at Legislature

Every fall, the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) holds a Manitoba REALTOR® Network (MRN) symposium to bring members up to date on advocacy issues of direct interest to the industry. This year, the MRN symposium was held on Tuesday, November 21. Coincidentally, the provincial government opened the Manitoba Legislature with a throne speech in the afternoon.

As Southdale MLA Andrew Smith said when bringing greetings from the Legislature, the throne speech is an outline of what the provincial government plans to do next year. He also brought greetings on behalf of Premier Brian Pallister and indicated how the provincial government is committed to building stronger Manitoba communities.

All members of MRN were invited to participate in provincial and federal political advocacy discussions on behalf of the real estate profession, home buyers and sellers, and the communities across Manitoba. The Manitoba Political Action Committee (MPAC) oversees the activities and efforts of the MRN.

REALTOR® Week chair Harry DeLeeuw noted that they kicked off the week on Monday with MREA representatives holding a meeting with Blaine Pederson, the minister of growth, enterprise and trade.

The symposium’s theme this year was Opportunity Meets. The main Realtor advocacy issues brought to the attention of all three provincial parties were education financing reform, reducing barriers to homeownership and affordable homeownership for indigenous peoples.

Briefly, education financing reform is about establishing a uniform province-wide property tax mill rate to fund a system that places teachers and students first.

Lorne Weiss, the Manitoba Political Action Committee chair, said it is all about bringing better accountability and transparency to financing education in Manitoba. One of the results from a singular mill rate would be to enable the consolidation of the 35 school boards in Manitoba, he added.

The conversation with the provincial government and MLAs on reducing barriers to homeownership was about recognizing how difficult it is for first-time buyers to purchase a home due to tougher federal mortgage qualifying requirements.  As a result, the MREA is asking the provincial government to provide a $750 land transfer tax rebate for first-time buyers and persons with disabilities. This would match the federal government’s $750 exemption. 

It was also pointed out that other provinces already have first-time home buyer exemptions in place, and that Alberta and Saskatchewan either have no land transfer tax or a very modest one.

First-time buyers are always a critical segment of the home buying market. Not only do they make up a significant portion of home buyers, but they enable sellers to purchase move-up homes. First-time buyers create a domino effect on the entire housing continuum.

Associated with this issue is educating Manitobans on how important real estate activity is to the provincial economy. For every housing transaction, there is $52,400 worth of economic spin-offs. There are also two jobs created for every five transactions. MREA estimates that there will be $772 million in economic spin-offs from home sales in Manitoba this year.

Another issue is to continue to support homeownership opportunities for indigenous peoples. The Manitoba Tipi Mitawa program, which has successfully placed 17 indigenous families in homes, addresses the serious under representation of our indigenous population in homeownership.

Weiss said we need to change that and break the cycle of poverty.

A recent funding commitment by the provincial government will create homeownership opportunities for 10 indigenous families through 2019.

Realtors, this week and in the months to come, will be advocating on how they drive economic development opportunities through their North American network of Realtor associations. MREA hosted the first Certified International Property Specialist course outside of the United States in June, and had an inbound trade mission in conjunction with this new undertaking. It provides Winnipeg and Manitoba with the opportunity to elevate awareness of the affordable and stable markets offered in both residential and commercial real estate. Sustained and stable growth is a Manitoba advantage and real estate is one industry that benefits from this enviable status.

The week also included Realtor volunteer activities. MREA staff hosted a charity drive on Friday, November 24, with Realtor brokerages to pick up donations for Manitoba shelters. It was part of MREA’s ongoing shelter foundation efforts to help Manitobans in need of support.