Canada’s housing minister says the government is open to revising its immigration targets amid unprecedented strains on the country’s housing market.
One avenue to alleviate housing pressures could be through reducing the surging number of international student visas, said Sean Fraser, who previously served as immigration minister.
“If we were going to shift the way we operate [our immigration system] to set a target, or to align the numbers with housing capacity, it’s a monumental change in the way Canada does immigration,” Fraser told host Vassy Kapelos during CTV’s Question Period on Sept. 10.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but it does mean if we’re seeking to make a permanent change to how Canada’s immigration laws operate, we have to do it right and in partnership with other levels of government who have jurisdiction over education and institutions.”
Fraser added that Canada’s temporary immigration programs, which are “uncapped,” could be amended to reduce population growth.
In late October 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the country would welcome 1.2 million newcomers over the following three years—401,000 in 2021, 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 this year.
Last year, it expanded those figures to include 431,645 immigrants in 2022, 447,055 this year, and 451,000 in 2024.
The country’s housing market has been showing signs of strain as demand outstrips supply and prices have skyrocketed. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s latest data, the average national home price was $558,754 in July, up by 6.3 percent from a year earlier.
According to the August 2023 rental report from Rentals.ca, the average asking rent in Canada increased to $2,078 in July, marking the fastest price growth over the past three months and an increase of 8.9 percent year-over-year.
When asked by Ms. Kapelos if Canada would revise the IRCC’s latest quotas, Mr. Fraser deferred to Mr. Miller, noting he has to table an immigration levels plan within a few months.
Mr. Fraser also alluded to supply-side constraints as playing an outsized role in why housing demand vastly outstrips available inventory.
“When we’re looking at the answer to our housing challenges, we also focus on what we can do to increase the supply,” Fraser said. “It’s essential we remember that immigration remains one of Canada’s strongest competitive advantages in the global economy.”
According to Statistics Canada, the country’s population grew by a record 1,050,110 people last year. StatCan also noted that 2022 is the only year in Canada’s history that the population increased by more than a million people.