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QUESTION PERIOD — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Affordable Housing

December 14, 2023

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Minister Champagne and Minister Freeland testified before us yesterday. They offered a few solutions, including some that I would call Band-Aid solutions, to the glaring problem of housing creation.

The information I’ve gotten from real estate developers indicates that the housing problem has much deeper causes. They say the problem stems more specifically from the banks, which are extremely nervous and conservative — in the negative sense of the word. As a result, highly stringent stress tests are being required and money for real estate projects has either dried up or is being loaned under extremely onerous conditions.

What is the government doing to bring the banks into line?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

Canadian banks are unquestionably independent. They operate within a legal framework, but it’s not the government’s job to dictate how banks assess risk.

That said, the measures put in place — and I’m referring, colleagues, to the article by Maxime Bergeron in La Presse, which you undoubtedly read this morning. Mr. Bergeron pointed to the potential benefits of programs that publish and distribute house models or plans that developers can use to create or build affordable housing.

The government has some practical steps to take, but it will not necessarily dictate how private banks should assess risk.

You mentioned Maxime Bergeron, and I just wrote to him to tell him I think he’s wrong.

That said, you’re not afraid of meeting with grocery bosses to bring down the price of turkey, but you don’t want to meet with bankers or put any pressure on them. You don’t mess with bankers, but you make a whole big production out of talking to grocers and inviting them to the minister’s office.

Senator Gold [ - ]

I’m not aware of any meetings or discussions with bankers. That’s not what I said. Maybe I misunderstood your question. What I’m saying is that banks are responsible for proper risk assessment. Of course regular conversations take place between the government and Canada’s business community, including banks.

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