3 Ways The New Alberta Budget Impacts Your Rental

Now that the Federal Election has ended, the Provincial Government under Premier Jason Kenney has released their 2019 Budget. With low oil prices, high unemployment, and dissatisfaction with the government in Ottawa, this budget is designed to help put Alberta back on track. Because a budget it holistic, it tackles everything from healthcare to education to social services, but there are a few notes for investors who own rental property in Alberta

Tourism Levy

If you own a property that you rent out for short terms like on Airbnb or Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), this affects you. Currently, the government has a 4% tax on all short term accommodations such as hotels and B&B’s, but it has not been applied to short term rental suites. To level the playing field, the province will impose a 4% tax on all short term rentals starting in 2020. This tax will be implemented right through the listing website, but will make short term rentals less appealing as compared to hotels or other accommodation choices.

Electricity Regulated Rate

In 2016, the Provincial Government at the time announced plans to cap the electricity rate at 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour. What that means is if the electrical rate went above that amount, the government would pay the difference. This budget will eliminate that credit.

If you own a rental property where you cover the cost of electricity for your tenants, this may increase the cost of your electricity bills. If you live in a condominium, expect that your condo fees may increase as well as electricity costs are going up. How much is still to be determined, but expect that electricity bills will increase.

Carbon Tax Removal

As of June 4th of this year, Alberta no longer has a carbon tax. That means it costs you a few cents less to fill gas or to heat your home. It also means that many Albertans also won’t receive a rebate cheque for their climate usage.

With Alberta repealing the provincial carbon tax, the Federal Government has legislation in place that mandates either a carbon tax or cap and trade system for pollution in each province. Starting January 1, 2020, a carbon tax will be imposed on Alberta starting at $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide used and rising to $30 per tonne in April next year. The latter is the level that the carbon tax was at before it was repealed. This will then rise by $10 per year until 2022.

Expect that this will raise your gas bill by a little over 6.50 cents per litre and just under 6 cents per cubic metre of natural gas for home heating as of April, with a greater increase in the coming years. For landlords that provide heat for their tenants, and for condos that include heat as part of condo fees, expect bills to increase next year.

In a future piece, we will cover the tax impact of the new provincial budget on your rental property.

Photo courtesy of Jason MacIntosh of The Canadian Press

How does the Federal Election Impact Your Rental Property?

Canada’s Federal Election is on October 21st, and each party is in the final days of campaigning for your vote. For people who own investment real estate, this time of year is important to know how the federal election will impact their properties.

We have gone through the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Party platforms to see how they impact you. Take a look:

The Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative Party’s approach has typically been to reduce taxes in order to ensure there is more money in your pocket. The logic being that you know what you need better than the government. This election is no different

Removing GST from Home Energy Bills

One incentive that landlords will use, especially in slow markets, is to include the utilities in the rent. While it may cost them a few hundred dollars more per month, especially in a house, it is often less than leaving a property vacant. This proposal, if passed, could be very good for landlords.

Reviewing the Mortgage Stress Test

In 2018, the Federal Government put in place a stress test on all mortgages. A homebuyer would have to be able to afford a mortgage two points higher than their current interest rate or the average interest rate as calculated by the Bank of Canada, whichever is greater.

This limited the number of people who would be able to qualify for a mortgage, and especially first time homebuyers. It also affected people who wanted to switch their mortgage to a new lender, leaving people locked in at higher rates.

The Conservative Government wants to remove the stress test on pre-existing mortgages, and allow first time home buyers to take out a 30 year mortgage, provided it is insured. The New Democratic Party also wants to allow first time home buyers to take out a 30 year mortgage.

For rental property owners, this is both good and bad news. On the one hand, it would make it easier for landlords to switch their mortgage to whichever institution gives them the best rate, however, it limits the supply of people who are going to rent.

Most Canadians still prefer to buy than rent, and by making buying easier, less people will choose to rent, driving rents down. This particularly impacts rentals in the middle and upper brackets, as those had seen some growth since the stress test was first introduced. However, it likely will not impact the less expensive rentals, as those who rent in those brackets will still be unable to afford to buy a home. Investors who are looking to buy a rental property may want to look at their investment strategy if home ownership is made easier

Green Home Renovation Tax Credit

The Conservative Party also wants to make it easier for people to make their homes more efficient. Capital improvements are expensive, especially for owners of rental properties, but making a home more efficient can save on utility costs and can make a home more desirable for tenants. This tax credit is for 20% of the cost of a renovation between $1,000 and 20,000 that makes your home more efficient. This would include things like efficient heating systems, solar panels, new windows, or other major projects.This would increase the value of a home, and likely make it easier to rent, as it would decrease a tenants utility costs

Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal Party also understands that home ownership is a major part of The Canadian Dream, and something that directly impacts most people.

Prioritizing Low Income Housing Support

One of the major points that the Liberal Party has talked about is making housing more affordable for Canadians. The majority of their plan revolves around increasing the number of affordable places to live across the country. This includes working with developers to build new low income housing, allocating underutilized Federal land to develop new programs, and working on Housing First initiatives to help people get off the street and into long term homes.

For landlords with properties with lower rents, this increases the pool of potential tenants. Organizations that support people in moving into their own home will likely have more resources to do so. It likely will not impact those working in more expensive brackets as much.

Removing GST On Capital Projects

The Liberal Party, if elected, wants to help the supply of affordable rental units. To do this, they are proposing to remove the GST on capital investments in affordable rentals. While it is unclear as to whether this will apply strictly to new builds or to pre-existing rental properties, this could save owners hundreds of dollars if they choose to upgrade their property. At Amhurst, we find that properties that are more modern rent easier.

The New Democratic Party

The New Democratic Party has a number of suggestions that will directly impact landlords in Canada. Their general approach historically has been to increase taxes in order to increase the number of government services.

Increase Capital Gains Inclusion Rate

For investors, this is a big one. In Canada, investors are taxed for any gain they may have from stocks, property or otherwise once they sell, however they are only taxable on half of what they gained, not the full amount. The NDP want to increase the inclusion rate (how much you are taxed on) from 50% to 75%.

If you bought a home for $300,000 and sold it for $400,000, you made $100,000 on that sale. By current capital gains rules, you are taxable on only $50,000 of that amount at your tax rate. Under the NDPs proposal, you would be taxed on $75,000.

Investors in real estate buy properties to make money off of the rent, and to see some sort of gain upon dispossession. An increase in the capital gains inclusion rate is bad news for the latter point. This would decreases a property’s overall yield, and make investing in real estate a less enticing option. Not only would it drive down housing prices, it would also decrease the rental pool, as investors would be less keen on buying more properties. This could increase rental prices, especially in the middle and upper brackets.

Foreign Buyers Tax

The NDP also want to make it harder for foreigners to buy properties in Canada. This proposal is in place to limit huge changes in price, as has happened in Toronto and Vancouver, but also to limit money laundering. However, it makes it harder for non Canadians who would like to invest in Canada, either buy buying single units or whole buildings, to do so legitimately. By decreasing returns for foreign buyers, it may decrease the purchase price for some properties, particularly in the aforementioned cities, but when these units are used as rental properties, it could decrease the number of rental properties available. This particularly impacts the upper echelons of the rental market.

What does it all come down to?

At the end of the day, a party’s platform is a series of proposals of what they would like to do if elected. None of this is set in stone, or something that they necessarily will do if elected. The real answers of what they will do will become clearer once the government is formed and they release their first budget.

However, a party’s platform is a good indicator of the types of ways in which they would solve problems. The fundamental values under which each policy point is made are often more important than the actual points that they do make. Looking at how they have chosen to solve issues surrounding housing will give a good indicator of what they might do if elected.

Each party has a different vision for Canada, and each differs in key ways on what is best for Canadians and how best to accomplish it. The best thing to do is to become educated on what each party is detailing, and how it will impact you and your family’s lives.

Photo Credit: The Toronto Star