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Liberals “use it or lose” lingo spooks landowners

September 13, 2021

The federal Liberals have raised some concerns in Canada’s estate community with an election statement, released September 1, that hints at government expropriating privately-owned vacant land that could be used for affordable housing.
A Liberal election brochure explaining its Housing Plan states that a re-elected Liberal government would create a $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund “which will grow the annual housing supply in the country’s largest cities every year.”
The fund targets 100,000 new homes by 2024-25 These homes would be affordable to “middle-class” buyers.
However, the statement goes on to read:
“We will also work with municipalities within this program to identify vacant or underused property that should be converted to housing on the principle of use it or lose it—that core urban land should be available for new housing, not left vacant as an unproductive investment property.”
Some, such as the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA), see the “use or lose it” wording as a veiled reference to possible seizure of privately-owned land if the government decides it should be used to provide housing.
An Ottawa-based spokesman for the Liberal Party of Canada dismissed the phrase as a “colloquial saying.”
“We are not proposing the seizure of private land,” he said in a telephone interview from the Liberal campaign’s media office. He explained the reasoning behind the statement is that some of the $4 billion in federal funding could be used by major municipalities to purchase such land and convert it to housing.
When asked what would happen if a landowner with a potential residential site refused to sell, the spokesman said, “I really don’t know.”
BCREA, which released a statement August 31 joining national calls for government to help increase the supply of housing, is among those questioning federal Liberal messaging.

“Regarding the ‘use it or lose it’ line in the Liberal party platform, in addition to a number of risks associated with the policy—including a potential infringement on property rights—it is important to see details around how ‘vacant or underused’ will be addressed,” s


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