Ottawa doing ‘deep dive’ into country’s housing markets, Morneau says

The federal government is conducting an in-depth examination of the country's real estate markets as it decides whether more changes are needed to rein in escalating prices or curb the impact of foreign investment on housing affordability, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday.

TORONTO — The federal government is conducting an in-depth examination of the country’s real estate markets as it decides whether more changes are needed to rein in escalating prices or curb the impact of foreign investment on housing affordability, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday.

“What we’re doing right now is we’re making sure that we have a deep dive into the information to ensure that any considerations we have for change are evidence-based,” Morneau said after giving a speech at an economic conference in Toronto.

“Our ongoing goal is to ensure that we understand the market in all of its complexity, that we consider all the evidence to determine what measures are necessary, on an ongoing basis, to ensure that Canadians have the ability to buy homes.”

The government has faced growing calls from researchers, bankers and other housing sector observers in recent days to address soaring prices and mounting household debt, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.

Last week, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a report in which it urged Ottawa to act.

Morneau did not specify Wednesday what sort of changes the government was considering or how soon it may implement any measures it may decide to undertake.

The government is looking at a number of factors affecting the real estate industry, such as population growth, the labour market and the supply of homes, Morneau said.

Ottawa is also examining whether there is any evidence to support the notion held by some that foreign buyers are driving up home prices, Morneau said.

“We’re going to remain focused on this, using real evidence to think about what are the measures that we can do in order to ensure that this market stays healthy for Canadians,” Morneau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later addressed The Economist’s Canada Summit, reiterating his opposition to Britain leaving the European Union and his pitch for automakers to invest in Canadian manufacturing facilities.

The summit is aimed at identifying the key trends that are reshaping Canada’s role in the global economy while delving into ways the country can become more competitive.

Topics of discussion included the housing boom and consumer debt, whether a financial bubble is ready to burst and how to reinvent the energy sector as it deals with lower oil prices.

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