By Peter Squire
Advocating for homeownership does not stop when an election ends. It is ongoing, never ending and rewarding. You realize you can help play a part in helping Canadians achieve the dream of homeownership, and in doing so, fulfill one of the most important investments and necessity they will ever make.
When we look back after the October 21 federal election, Manitobans will have elected candidates running for office at all three levels of government and school boards. Ahead of this is the September 10 provincial election and less than a year ago municipal politicians and school board trustees were elected on October 24, 2018.
In respect to the municipal election, WinnipegREALTORS® was proud to team up with the Winnipeg Free Press and AVentPro to put on a successful and engaging mayoral forum. Whether it is property taxes, infrastructure, crime, provision of affordable housing, or economic development, there were no lack of issues and related questions to address at this forum.
WinnipegREALTORS® was particularly pleased to make this forum one where housing came to the fore. In fact, CBC called it a housing forum and moderator Brad Oswald opened up the forum by stating the following. “Owning a home for most people will be the most important investment they will ever make in their lifetime. As mayor, what will you do to ensure the value of that investment is protected?” This opening question brought out public safety as a priority with the meth crisis being a growing problem in the city. How do we keep our residential neighbourhoods safe from property crime and violence? Like infrastructure, this issue cuts across all three levels of government and provincial parties are putting forward various solutions in their platforms to tackle this election issue.
Ultimately what solutions are put forward, and then acted on, will bring desired outcomes to significantly reduce meth-related crime incidents and make our neighbourhoods safer from property crime. A lot is at stake for everyone’s sake.
Housing affordability is another area where all levels of government and school boards can make a difference in how home ownership, can not only be achieved, but protected in as cost effective way as possible. Smart infrastructure investment which supports housing and commercial development leads to economic growth and provides an increased tax base to help keep property taxes down. Finding better ways to attract and retain our skilled workforce through provision of affordable housing for them will help create more jobs and support necessary public services.
Leading into the 2019 provincial election WinnipegREALTORS® was pleased to join forces with the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) to conduct a Probe Research poll of 1,000 Manitobans on land transfer taxes and public education funding. Both these issues are long standing ones REALTORS® have advocated for in making them fairer for property owners.
The results clearly showed strong public support for land transfer tax relief with the highest approval rating being the endorsement of a first-time homebuyer exemption. This makes sense given how difficult it can be for a first-time buyer to come up with necessary down payment and closing costs (e.g. out of pocket land transfer tax levy expense). 79% of Manitobans either strongly or moderately agree to a land transfer tax first-time homebuyer exemption.
The Probe Research survey also asked if Manitobans prefer seeing a uniform single education property tax rate throughout Manitoba as other provinces have adopted over the years. The majority supported moving in this direction.
An issue REALTORS® have held firmly for many years and advocated for since the 90s is to recognize education is a core provincial service and therefore should be funded through general revenues, not on the backs of property owners. There have been measures taken by previous provincial governments to offset the higher cost of school taxes on homeowners by no longer subjecting them to the Education Support Levy — a provincial education tax on property — and providing an education tax credit which is currently at $700. The current government has also placed a cap on how much school boards can raise school taxes and commenced a major review on how we deliver K-12 education in this province with the intention of creating better education outcomes.
So, on these two major provincial issues of concern to REALTORS®, have any of the provincial parties addressed them with a week to go before going to the polls?
In a previous election column, it was mentioned that the Manitoba Green Party called for revising the funding structure of public schools to not only ensure equitable funding for education, but go further to not rely on property taxes to fund education. This week the PCs announced they are committed to phasing out education property taxes over 10 years. This includes the Special Education Levy and the Education Support Levy. Commercial property owners pay both of these education taxes. The PCs expect to save Manitobans $141 million over the next four years.
On the land transfer tax front, the NDP recognized the challenge first-time buyers have in purchasing a home and put forward a plan to offer $1,000 in land transfer tax relief for first-time buyers and people with disabilities. They estimate it may help as many as 8,000 homebuyers a year and will be a significant offset to the average homebuyer paying $3,700 in land transfer taxes.
While the Manitoba Liberals do not have a direct campaign platform proposal to address education taxes on property or the land transfer tax, their call for a complete tax review of Manitoba’s tax system would certainly show how out of step Manitoba is with the rest of the provinces in its current land transfer tax set up and would also show our overreliance on property to fund edcuation.
Whoever forms government after next week’s provincial election, REALTORS® will continue to advocate for homeownership and homeowners. In bringing in improvements in issues, REALTORS® have identified issues that negatively impact homeowners, Manitoba can do more to take advantage of the fact it has some of the most affordable housing prices in the country.
If you have not gone out to an advanced poll to vote yet, be sure to get out and vote on September 10. If you have any questions about where to vote and the process, go to electionsmaniotba.ca
Peter Squire is WinnipegREALTORS®, Vice-President, External Relations & Market Intelligence.