Canadian History: Managing Housing Investors

In 1872 the new nation of Canada had a goal: populate its west. It was a mixture of desire and necessity, as the Canadian government did not want to lose territory to the United States and the best way to do that was to have Canadians living there. As a result, the Dominion Lands Act was written into law on April 14, 1872.

The Act offered claims to land across the prairies from Manitoba to parts of B.C. and up into the Northwest Territories. Canada promoted the offer to residents of Eastern Canada and across Europe. Any male 21 years of age or older (in 1876 it was extended to women) for a $10 administration fee was given a 160-acre homestead pending the following terms: the new owner must cultivate the land, build a dwelling and live there for at least six months of the year.

The goal of the Act was to populate the west, so from the legislation’s creation the government of Canada had to protect against one thing: land speculation. The last thing the government wanted was for its population program to be taken advantage of by investors looking to buy up land only to let it sit empty and then sell later at a profit (sound familiar?). In 1872 our government (though heavily flawed in treatment of the natives) had the foresight to put in restrictions to ensure housing investors did not ruin the intent of the program.

As we fast forward to the modern housing market, Canadian cities and provinces are struggling to establish rules and legislation to prevent investors from negatively influencing the market. We struggle with this concept like it is new, and not something that Canada literally dealt with in its infancy. For over 140 years we have known of the negatives of land meant to house residents being used purely an investment opportunity, the only difference is the desire to act.

In 1872 the threat of losing territory to the expanding United States was too real to ignore so our government took action. At present, it seems the risk of an entire generation and potentially future generations missing out on meaningful home ownership is not equating to the same threat level. Considering that definitive action to address this issue seems to be eluding governments throughout Canada in the modern day.

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