The Canadian government has the capacity to make housing more affordable and must act now, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Victor Dodig said.

Possible solutions to the nation’s soaring housing costs include improving transportation links to urban centers, increasing the rental stock, speeding approvals for new construction at the municipal level and adding federal incentives to accelerate those approvals, Dodig said. He added that those ideas need to be put to work, and their outcomes need to be measured.

“The time is now,” Dodig said in an interview that aired Friday on BNN Bloomberg Television. “There’s really no time to wait on all of this.”

CIBC is one of Canada’s largest mortgage lenders, with $250.2 billion (US$195 billion) in real-estate-secured loans on the books of its domestic banking division as of Oct. 31.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said this week that Canadian housing prices jumped more than 25 per cent in November from a year ago, a record gain driven by a historic supply shortage. Dodig said population growth -- through immigration and births -- is also a major driver of those surging costs and said the solutions could be implemented in a way that starts to provide near-term relief. 

“If policy makers at the municipal, provincial and federal level came together to chart out a plan, I think you can get things going quite quickly,” Dodig said. 

CIBC this week suspended a plan to return workers to its offices in January amid rising COVID case counts and concerns about the fast-spreading omicron variant. Dodig said CIBC will reassess its return-to-office plans in the beginning of January and follow guidelines from public health authorities.