Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Why owning a home is good for you

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A national Canadian magazine recently hit the shelves with a piece citing a variety of reasons why the authors felt home ownership was a bad thing.

It even went as far to say home ownership distorted the economy and took a toll on our minds and bodies.

The article's premise began with a single case of a young woman considering buying a condominium in downtown Toronto. Worried about interest rates and resale value, she decided to live with her grandparents instead.

Almost 70 per cent of all Canadians are involved in owning the properties in which they live, about the same as in the United States up to 2004. When disaster struck the housing market down south, a series of experts gathered to warn of the potential for a similar situation here.

The article went as far as to insinuate that owning houses could lead to labour imbalances, anxiety disorders and poor eating. This seems a little far-fetched to me, but maybe that's because I've always felt that diet and exercise had greater impact than renting.

The writers did acknowledge that most experts agree that a real estate downturn in Canada would not trigger a U.S.-style banking crisis. However, they were concerned that home-related activities accounted for too much of Canada's economy. Housing was accounting for more of our country's GDP than oil and gas extraction and mining.

Somehow, the TV-viewing public is to blame because we continue to watch good news shows such as Property Virgins and Love It or List It rather than the long-since-cancelled House Poor.

The Canadian Home Builders Association responded to these and other allegations in the article. It expressed outrage the authors would allude to the possibility of a U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis occurring in the same manner here, given our financial regulatory system. The CHBA was somewhat dumbfounded at the idea that hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs in the residential construction industry was a bad thing.

Housing affordability is an issue of concern to everyone in Canada. The cost of labour and materials, government-imposed taxes and costs, mortgage rates and the ability of buyers to stay within their appropriate price range are all important factors to be considered and discussed. However, these concerns were not the premise of this article. Perhaps, at a later date, all of the pessimism regarding our economy that seems to dominate can be replaced by a more optimistic look to the future.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 F10

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