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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


When did home ownership become an entitlement?

Earlier this week Finance Minister Bill Morneau indicated without specifics that the Liberal government is exploring ways to make home-buying more affordable for millennials. But I have to ask the question: Why?

Home ownership is likely the biggest financial responsibility and commitment one can take. The ability to save for a down payment, make monthly payments and fund the costs associated with home ownership requires financial maturity and compromise.

To be fair, many have made compromises to ditch rental cheques and taken on mortgage payments very successfully. The sacrifices to achieve the dream of owning a home are never easy, but when you want something badly enough, you will do what you have to do.

Here are a few examples of the compromises that millennials take to buy their first home:

1. Honeymoon or home ownership: Newlyweds have abandoned the post-nuptial tradition of splashing out on big travel plans in order to put their cash towards a down payment instead. The same can be said about other young Canadians, who rein in their travel plans to save up for a home.

2. Adjusting expectations: Your first home likely isn’t your “forever” home.  Buy less than you qualify for. Just because your potential mortgage shows you can spend a lot, doesn’t mean you should.

3. Make grown-up decisions: If owning a home matters that much to you, take a hard look at your life. Never mind whether you’re willing to commute – you may have to completely uproot your life and find a job in a more affordable market far from expensive urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver.

A recent survey by MNP Ltd. highlighted how 46 per cent of Canadians surveyed are $200 or less away from financial insolvency at the end of every month, compared with 40 per cent who faced those circumstances in the previous survey in September. This suggests many Canadians are living close to the margin, and that clearly is not a good thing for the economy or the prospect of buying a home.

Given these debt challenges and financial compromises, Morneau’s suggestion that young Canadians need help with home-buying begs the question: When did owning a home become a right? Maybe it’s when it becomes a platform issue for the upcoming federal election.

Millennials will unquestionably be one of the largest cohorts of eligible voters, and they will have a huge impact on the results of the election. Many have expressed a desire to own a home.

But one thing that the government should keep in mind is home ownership isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay.