The Surrey Board of Trade (SBoT) hosted an afternoon chat with federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Sheraton Guildford on Thursday (March 30).
SBoT President Anita Huberman sat down with Freeland to ask how the 2023 budget would benefit Surrey.
“Surrey has the greatest number of newcomers and refugees within the province,” Huberman said, and with that an increased demand for affordable housing.
Huberman asked how the federal budget would address this growing need.
“Wow, Surrey, you do such a good job at being a place where new Canadians thrive,” Freeland said in response.
The minster went on to say that if we want to welcome more people into Canada, we must build more homes for them.
Last year’s budget included a $10-billion housing plan, money Freeland says is still being spent. Part of that plan includes a $4-billion housing accelerator program announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago on March 17 that aims to speed up the construction of 100,000 homes across Canada over the next 10 years.
The fund requires municipalities to submit action plans on how they want to fast-track more housing supply, with affordability in mind.
“I see no reason why Surrey’s application should not be the first and why it should not be the best, and why you guys should not get lots of money to help you build a lot more houses,” Freeland said. “Because this is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada.”
Surrey’s mayor Brenda Locke, who was in attendance, could be seen nodding in agreement.
Real estate observers have bemoaned the lack of additional housing affordability measures in the Tuesday’s budget, despite applauding the federal government’s promise of a new mortgage code of conduct meant to give struggling homeowners fair access to relief measures.
Freeland also spoke about the grocery rebate announced Tuesday that Canadians will be receiving.
The rebate’s maximum benefits, generally paid to individuals and families with incomes up to $35,000, will be the same as they were for the GST top-up in the fall: $234 for a single person with no children, $467 for a couple with two children and $225 for a senior citizen. Benefit amounts decrease as incomes grow, to a maximum income of $60,000.
“I recognize that for a family here in Surrey that is struggling with affordability, that feels kind of sticker shock when you are at the grocery store — $467 is not going to cover everything,” Freeland said. “It’s not going to be like a magic wand, but what I will also say is for that family, $467 will be really welcome, and I’m glad that we’re able to provide it.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
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