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HOMEOWNERS PINCHED BY EDUCATION PROPERTY TAXES

Three Probe Research studies over four-year period confirm public opinion strong on removing education from property tax bill.

June 27, 2014 - WINNIPEG - As Monday's deadline to pay school and municipal property taxes looms large for homeowners, more than half of Manitobans believe they should not be paying for public education on their local property tax bills.

In each of three province-wide Probe Research surveys taken in 2010, 2012 and 2014, consistently 50 per cent or more respondents said they would rather see public schools funded through general provincial revenues than through local property taxes.

"Manitoba REALTORS® are continually hearing from our clients and through the ongoing professional research that it's time to change how education is funded," said Lorne Weiss, chair of the Education Finance Coalition. (www.letspayfair.com)

Manitoba is the only province using property taxes set by trustees in local school divisions to fund a significant proportion of education costs. In many Manitoba communities, the school portion makes up more than half the property tax bill.

  • In some cases, such as with cottage owners and property owners living in rural municipalities, up to 80 per cent of property tax revenue is spent on education.

  • Almost one third of the entire education budget is currently shouldered by Manitoba property owners, many of whom do not have a vote on the issue of school tax mill rates.
The Education Finance Coalition unites more than 250,000 Manitobans who want the Manitoba government to finance education through general revenue, as are other core services such as health care.

The coalition includes members of up to 40 organizations including Keystone Agriculture Producers, Manitoba Real Estate Association (includes the Brandon and Portage real estate boards), WinnipegREALTORS®, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, Manitoba Cottage Owners Association and others.


NEW WORKING GROUP TO FORM AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON DRUG PRODUCTION SITES TO THE MANITOBA GOVERNMENT

June 9, 2014 - WINNIPEG - The Manitoba Real Estate Association met today with consumer protection minister Ron Lemieux and senior staff in the finance department to discuss concerns about the lack of an up-to-date and accurate public registry of drug production sites and the need for standards for remediation of affected properties.

REALTORS® are required by the Manitoba Securities Commission to disclose whenever they are aware that a property was once a drug production site. However, there are no accurate, up-to-date records available to the public or to REALTORS® to check for this information. The RCMP registry is not updated regularly, and currently is not available at all. The Winnipeg Police Service registry removes all drug production site listings once they have been in place on the police list for one year.

After a positive and informative meeting around the issue, the parties determined the next step should be the creation of a formalized working group of key stakeholders to bring recommendations to the Manitoba government towards a "made in Manitoba" solution.

"This is a good step forward towards doing the right thing to better protect consumers and to help create safer, healthier communities," said MREA CEO Brian Collie. "We are pleased to work together to find appropriate solutions," Collie said.

By agreement between MREA and minister Lemieux, the new working group will include officials and experts who work in this area to explore the issues further and to provide the minister with recommendations on what can be done to give home buyers and REALTORS® better information on drug production sites. The group will convene in the fall after key representatives are recruited.

In the coming weeks, government staff will be examining what steps are being taken in other jurisdictions to address the issues and to hold REALTORS® to account for disclosing to customers when there is knowledge that a house was a former drug production site. MREA staff will be collecting and sharing progress made in real estate boards and associations across the country on this issue.

Minister Lemieux thanked the REALTOR® group for advancing this important issue and MREA representatives look forward to working with the Manitoba government to recommend individuals who could bring expert representation to the new working group.


PUBLIC REGISTRY OF DRUG PRODUCTION SITES ON NDP AGENDA

Manitoba consumer protection minister Ron Lemieux to meet with REALTOR® group

June 2, 2014 - WINNIPEG - The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) is meeting with a senior elected official in the Manitoba government to discuss concerns about the lack of an accurate, up-to-date public registry of drug production sites which exist in unknown and growing numbers of locations across the province.

The REALTOR® group has also asked the provincial government to establish and oversee standard protocols for the remediation of affected properties to protect the public and most peoples' largest investment - their home.

In response to a letter from MREA grow ops taskforce chair Claude Davis, sent in April to Premier Greg Selinger and to several senior NDP cabinet ministers (justice, health, housing and consumer protection), a spokesperson for the Manitoba government issued a written statement to media, which read:

"We are looking forward to meeting with the MREA to discuss their concerns. For most Manitoba families, buying a home is the biggest investment they will make and our government wants to help protect those investments. We agree home purchasers have a right to know the history of a home, including any defects or issues with the home such as past grow ops. That's why under current legislation, real estate agents must disclose to a prospective buyer if they are aware of a house that was a grow op or has other issues. This information would be on the offer to purchase form. Over the last few months we have consulted with hundreds of Manitobans about buying and purchasing a home and any additional consumer protection measures they feel are needed to protect Manitoba families' investments. This consultation was done as we work towards introducing legislation on real estate services to better protect consumers.

Winnipeg police have already established an online registry of former drug homes. So have the RCMP. The public and real estate agents are urged to check these websites when they are considering a home purchase.

We also are looking into regulating home inspectors. To this end, we are working with other provincial partners, along with the Canadian Standards Association. This would give prospective buyers who use home inspectors an extra degree of protection."

REALTORS® are required by law, as regulated by the Manitoba Securities Commission, to disclose to customer(s) whenever they know a house or property was a former chemical drug production site or marijuana grow operation.

The problem is, the current police and RCMP databases only make pertinent information available for one year. After that, REALTORS® are still responsible to disclose to clients, but with a limited registry there is nowhere for them to get accurate, timely information for proper disclosure. This reality also means no government department is held accountable to the unsuspecting consumer who may unknowingly purchase a former drug production site which was not disclosed.

REALTORS® believe the Manitoba government's justice department should mandate the local RCMP and police services to produce and to maintain open, transparent reporting on this issue. The group is asking Premier Selinger and his cabinet to work cooperatively with the real estate profession to solve this problem in a timely way.

Drug production can make a property a health or safety hazard due to the presence of mould, toxic residues, and gases. Some homes have undergone dangerous structural, wiring and/or mechanical changes. There are unknown health risks associated with chemical drug production sites, which are being discovered in growing numbers in properties across the province and for which no standards exist to clean them up and make them safe to live in.

In an interview with CJOB's Richard Cloutier in March of last year, Premier Selinger agreed that MREA's push for mandatory disclosure of homes with a drug production history is an important issue. Selinger told CJOB, "We've brought in some very good consumer protection legislation, so I think this fits that theme of protecting Manitobans' most valuable assets, which is something we're very interested in doing. " Selinger said.

"Can we take it further than that and make it absolute disclosure? That's certainly well within the scope of our legislative powers in Manitoba… We'll take a serious look at it," the Premier said.

REALTORS® take continuing education courses each year that include education on drug production sites. In those courses they learn that a listing agent is required to disclose if he or she has knowledge that a house had been a drug production site.

But behind walls, in painted basements and in other hidden places - that can easily be covered up by the seller before a house is put to market - REALTORS® don't always know which homes were once used to cook up batches of chemical drugs and/or to grow crops of marijuana.

Professionals in the industry simply want to do the right thing and not be held liable for failing to disclose something potentially dangerous of which they have no way to know exists.

Without a central public registry that remains visible to the public, dangerous facts can remain hidden, along with unknown public health dangers, behind many walls across Manitoba.


REALTORS® BECOME PERMANENT RESIDENTS AT CANADIAN MUSEUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

$2-million capital campaign fundraising goal reached

May 23, 2014 - WINNIPEG - When the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opens its doors to the nation in September 2014, REALTORS® will receive named recognition near the main entrance.

"The right to own property and live safely in our communities is at the heart of so many human rights conversations among us. The purpose of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights aligns with our profession's philosophy that we are here to improve the quality of life for all people," said Harry DeLeeuw, past president of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The REALTOR® campaign's $2-million fundraising goal is now met and DeLeeuw presented the final roundup of donations to Diane Boyle, Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Permanent signage identifying the contributions of REALTORS® will face Israel Asper Way, where visitors approach the main entrance of the national museum.

The goal was met thanks to contributions from real estate boards, provincial associations, private real estate companies, franchises and individual REALTOR® donors from across the country. The fundraising effort was led in Manitoba and was first launched by a WinnipegREALTORS® committee in 2008. It was later managed by the national chair of the REALTOR® campaign, Sheldon Zamick. Harry DeLeeuw and MREA CEO Brian M. Collie exerted a strong final push over the past year to reach the finish line.

The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights national campaign chair Gail Asper thanks REALTORS® for giving generously to the private sector capital campaign.

"The goal of this museum is to bring together believers in human rights," says Gail Asper, National Campaign Chair, Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, "which is why we're so excited that REALTORS® came together from not only across Manitoba, but from all corners of Canada and beyond, to show their support for human rights education, dialogue and action. And, I can't tell you how inspiring it was for our hardworking campaign team to watch with amazement and gratitude as the cheques flowed in from this remarkable campaign."

The Manitoba Real Estate Association looks forward to hosting a special reception event at the CMHR in late October. At Appreciation & Appetizers, REALTORS® will engage in dialogue with Manitoba MLAs and deputy ministers. The reception will be part of MREA's first Manitoba REALTOR® Network symposium, a premiere event bringing real estate professionals and elected officials together in a spirit of non-partisan partnership on issues of importance to all Manitobans.

To contribute to the REALTORS® campaign in support of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, visit www.beginswithyou.net


REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS WELCOME PROPOSED CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION

Bill 70 will improve industry

May 21, 2014, WINNIPEG - A proposed new Real Estate Services Act will help protect consumers, improve professionalism and accountability throughout the real estate profession, and make for a stronger Manitoba, says Brian M. Collie, CEO of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA).

The proposed legislation was tabled yesterday by the provincial minister for consumer protection, Ron Lemieux, for first reading in the Manitoba Legislature. It has been more than 60 years since the Real Estate Brokers Act was revamped. It was first written in the 1940s when people didn't use smartphones or computers to conduct regular business.

Most of the recommendations contained in Bill 70, the proposed Real Estate Services Act, were arrived at following a number of years of careful planning, recommendations, input and cooperative consultation between government and the real estate industry.

Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux along with Don Murray, chairman of the Manitoba Securities Commission (left) and Brian M. Collie, CEO of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (right) announce additional protection for consumers when buying or selling real estate.
Photo credit: Government of Manitoba

"We are pleased the Manitoba government is taking this initiative to modernize the act. As a profession, we have provided considerable input, advice and recommendations over a number of years of consultation," said Brian M. Collie, CEO of MREA.

"Many of our recommendations are already implemented and we also look forward to continuing this partnership to ensure that buying and selling homes and properties in Manitoba is a positive community-building experience. Organized real estate is privileged to hold this important role and responsibility. We always want to strengthen the best consumer protection practices and to enhance our profession's role in building a better Manitoba," Collie said.

MREA would like to clarify possible misunderstanding around the issue of capping commissions and whether the Manitoba government intends to use its power to enforce commission caps. While the securities commission will have the authority to cap or to amend commissions, the chair of the commission has stressed this authority would only be used if this became an issue in the future and after consultation with the industry and the public. Commissions are not capped in any other region of the country.

Commissions are always negotiable and MREA always recommends that commissions be discussed up-front with clients and agreed upon with agents. The code of conduct being proposed within the legislation is a close cousin to the Canadian Real Estate Association's The REALTOR® Code which is already in place across the country and adopted by The Manitoba Real Estate Association of its own accord.

MREA has worked diligently to gain input from a broad cross-section of real estate boards and associations across the country into the code and is fully supportive of the government's initiative to mandate this code. Currently, the industry's adoption of the code as a general agreement is voluntarily adopted.

The finalized code will call real estate agents to higher standards of professionalism, transparency with clients, and will clearly lay out the responsibilities involved in servicing clients. The addition of a service agreement between agent and seller will also clearly outline the role of the agent and will set forth a written agreement covering commissions, fees, and what services the agent will provide.

"It will place a higher level of expectation on practitioners in the real estate industry, and I think it's a good thing for all," Collie said.

The service agreement is a change welcomed readily by The Manitoba Real Estate Association, which represents nearly 2100 real estate professionals across the province.

Under the proposed act, homebuyers and home sellers will also be able to check for timely information - likely to be posted on the Manitoba Securities Commission site - for a listing of real estate agents who have been disciplined in order to know the status of complaints filed.

Today's Winnipeg Free Press article by Larry Kusch correctly outlined some of the changes expected with the proposed act, which could likely take effect in early 2015.

  • List all licenced real estate agents on a website, citing any disciplinary findings against them;
  • Require upfront service agreements between agents and clients that explain the agent's role and list commissions and fees;
  • Require agents to tell home sellers about all offers on their home;
  • Establish a new code of conduct covering advertising, conflicts of interest and the preservation of confidentiality of client information;
  • Give the Manitoba Securities Commission broader powers to mediate disputes and suspend or terminate real estate agent licences; and
  • Boost maximum fines to $100,000 for agents and $500,000 for brokerages from the current $1,000 for agents and $2,000 for brokerages. Agents could also face up to two years in jail for breaching the act.
Bill 70: http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-3/pdf/b070.pdf


REALTORS® SERVE EASTER DINNER TO MORE THAN 850 PEOPLE IN WINNIPEG'S INNER CITY

What does it take for more than 50 REALTOR® volunteers to serve Easter dinner in Winnipeg to over 850 hungry folks on a chilly Good Friday? How about 125 roasted turkeys, 120 litres of gravy, 450 pounds of mashed potatoes, 150 litres of creamy coleslaw, 1000 buns and loads of lattice-top apple pie? "Easter can be that one forgotten holiday, the time when at-risk people are most likely to be left out in the cold. We are thankful the real estate community is committed to this compassionate service in our community.

Together, we're creating a caring environment where every person is valued and no one has to be alone at Easter," said Judy Richichi, Siloam Mission's Director of Development and Finance.

"We appreciate their partnership over the years. The consistency and dedication of REALTORS Care® in providing the Easter Dinner at Siloam Mission has enabled us to continue as a beacon of hope for vulnerable folks in Winnipeg's inner city."

April 18 was the 8th consecutive year for the REALTORS Care® Easter Dinner at Siloam Mission. REALTOR® volunteers in white aprons prepared, served and cleaned up after delivering platesful of turkey and all the trimmings to tables full of guests at the inner-city mission. Some of the mission's guests face chronic homelessness, disability, poverty and other complex challenges to independence and upward mobility. Many guests represent the working poor and some came for dinner in the midst of major life traumas or transitions, when community connectedness is especially needed.

Before the dinner was served, tables for eight were set with flowers as volunteer fiddlers filled the air with joyful music. Children attending with parents or caregivers received Easter baskets with treats and colouring books. More than a dozen community partners stepped up with cash donations and supplies for the meal. Organizers are already looking forward to planning for Easter at Siloam in 2015.

The REALTORS Care® committee would like to extend a special thank you to generous friends, volunteers and community partners who contributed to help make the day special and memorable:

Acuity Marketing
Century 21 Advanced Realty
Certified Home Inspections
City Bread
Costco
Dollarama
Gateway Real Estate Ltd.
George Wakefield Foods Inc.
Manitoba Real Estate Association
Maximum Realty Ltd.
Peak of the Market
Qualico
Realty Executives First Choice
Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate
Ryan's Snow Removal
Sobeys


REALTORS® IN MANITOBA READY TO WORK WITH GOVERNMENT FOR PUBLIC REGISTRY OF ALL DRUG PRODUCTION SITES

Clear remediation standards also needed for affected properties

Monday, May 5, 2014 - WINNIPEG -- REALTORS® in Manitoba are taking new strides to connect cooperatively with the Manitoba government to make a centralized public registry of all drug production sites in the province a key priority.

"We are grateful Premier Selinger has expressed willingness to pursue this issue because it fits with the government’s theme of protecting Manitobans’ most valuable assets. We are ready to help move this forward," said Claude Davis, chair of the Grow-Ops Task Force of the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

MREA has been actively researching and seeking solutions in consultation with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), along with similar task forces in other provinces, and with the City of Winnipeg’s Office of the Fire Commissioner. In a letter sent April 25, 2014 to Premier Greg Selinger, Justice Minister and Attorney General Andrew Swan, Health Minister Erin Selby, Housing Minister Peter Bjornson and Ron Lemieux, the minister responsible for consumer protection, the REALTOR® group asked for a meeting to discuss a two-step solution:

The creation of a central registry where all police forces in the province would list properties found to be at-risk as drug production sites The identification of clear remediation standards for all identified properties

"A drug production site registry is a classic example of good use of public authority ­ to provide standardized information that enables citizens to make informed judgments," Davis said in the letter.

Drug production can make a property a health or safety hazard due to the presence of mould, toxic residues, and gases. Some homes have undergone dangerous structural, wiring and/or mechanical changes. REALTORS® are required to disclose when a property has been a former drug production site, but without accurate and timely information, doing so is not always possible.

RCMP and local police are collecting information on properties where drug production activity is discovered, but details are scattered in various files and databases and not fully accessible to the public in a clear, up-to-date way. Sophisticated indoor drug production sites are found weekly in Winnipeg, and across the province.

Actions are taking place in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia to move ahead on addressing these public health, safety and consumer protection issues. Sophisticated indoor drug production sites are found weekly in Winnipeg and across the province.

Read more


BRAND NEW PRE-LICENCING PROGRAM TO LAUNCH
IN JANUARY 2014

Streamlined, simplified and shortened: aspiring real estate agents will be able to register for a new and improved educational program starting in 2014. The pre-licencing educational requirement for prospective registrants under The Real Estate Brokers Act in Manitoba has been updated and reformatted to improve the process.

"Education, like other things, constantly evolves. Our current program is 13 years old and while we've amended the information and kept it up to date, there was certainly an opportunity to take advantage of some of the new thought processes in adult education," says Brian Collie, CEO of the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

The new program launches January 2, 2014 and will move from the current three "phases" (with assignments and exams followed by two articling requirements), to four new "modules" that now incorporate the articling courses, Real Property Law and Principles of Appraisal. Instead of handing in assignments, students will be given four months to work through a self-study guide and complete the exam for each module. A new fourth module will be an in-class session focusing on industry professionalism and the completion of statutory and additional forms, lasting about one and a half days.

"There are some topics that are difficult to teach in an effective manner just by reading a text. One of them is ethics and professionalism - that's a program that's better taught in a group format. And for completion of documents, a classroom format is a good way to deliver that information, in terms of making sure it's legible, you have the proper documentation and legally binding," says Collie.

Module 4 will be offered in Winnipeg and Brandon approximately once a month. Students will have a four-month window in which to attend a session, which will be presented by a mix of broker members, lawyers and MREA education staff members.

Once students finish Module 4, they no longer need to complete additional study and they can now apply for full licensing, explains Kristin DeLaronde, MREA Director of Education.

The new program will also feature a new exam format: a closed-book test of entirely multiple choice questions (with the exception of a forms component in Module 3).

"It's the trend in the education field right now. There have been a number of studies that indicate properly designed multiple choice questions can be as effective as long answer questions," says Collie. "And you can provide much fairer marking with the multiple choice format than a subjective long answer format."

Dropping the assignment requirement will allow some prospective agents to complete the program in less time. While each module, including its exam, will need to be completed within four months, students will now be able to complete them earlier using the self-study guide if they wish, says DeLaronde.

"The assignments had some merit but with adult learners, we're always trying to have them work at their own pace. If we can convey the same kind of information and they can get the same kind of knowledge, we're able to shorten the time for the student," says Collie.

As new students move through the program, MREA will conduct extensive surveys to gauge response and gather any concerns early on. About 1,000 students are enrolled in all levels of the program at any given time throughout the year.

More details about the new program and how it differs from the previous one are available on this New Pre-Licencing Education Program chart.

For more information, contact Kristin DeLaronde.


CREA PRESIDENT AND MREA LINK UP TO RAISE FUNDS FOR ALBERTA FLOOD RELIEF

July 10, 2013 - Winnipeg, MB - Canadian Real Estate Association president Laura Leyser’s recent visit to Winnipeg helped raise more than two thousand dollars for Albertans affected by recent flood devastation.

Leyser sponsored the 10th hole at the Manitoba Real Estate Association’s President's Charity Golf Classic on June 25. After learning of the devastating floods in Alberta, she decided to run a fundraiser in conjunction with her sponsorship, selling REALTORS Care® keys to golfers at $10 apiece. The MREA Board of Directors matched the $1,100 Leyser raised for the Canadian REALTORS Care® Foundation, for a total of $2,200 which REALTORS Care® will contribute to the Canadian Red Cross to put towards flood relief efforts in Alberta.


CREA President Laura Leyser with MREA President Brian Canart

The funds matching was a welcome surprise to Leyser.

"I was speechless," she said. "It showed where their (MREA’s) heart was before I even walked in the door. They were already on track for supporting what was going on in Alberta."

The $2,200 donation is an impressive amount, said MREA CEO Brian Collie.

"I think it just shows that REALTORS® really do care. Over the years, I’ve begun to believe pretty firmly that when there’s calamity and tragedy and charities that need help, REALTORS® are often the first to get their cheque books out," Collie said.

Communication is key

While in Winnipeg, Leyser, who is from Stratford, Ont., also made a presentation at MREA’s Board of Directors meeting on June 26 – the first time for a CREA president in over a decade. She shared information from CREA on 10 important issues being looked at right now such as the current CREA governance review, Futures planning and the topic Leyser considers the most essential: communication.

"Across Canada, all of the boards and associations are part of the REALTOR® family, and they’re part of a relationship with CREA," Leyser said after her presentation. "We’re trying to build those relationships and enhance them, and if it means going face to face and sitting and listening and trying to communicate more directly, that’s what we’re going to do. It’s about collaboration, and about building community."

Building and supporting community are also at the heart of the Canadian REALTORS Care® Foundation’s Alberta flood relief campaign. To donate, go to realtorscare.ca.


CALLING FOR CHANGE TO RULES FOR OWNERS OF SMALL COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES

May 16, 2013 - MREA and CREA are calling for federal changes to allow small business owners who buy commercial property to defer their recaptured depreciation when they sell their property. The two organizations believe that will encourage the "mom and pop" owners to buy more property – leading to a reinvestment in the community and often, more rental housing desperately needed in Manitoba.

REALTORS® from across Canada brought this issue to the attention of Members of Parliament in Ottawa in late April, as part of CREA’s annual Political Action Committee Days.

"We believe it’s a fairness issue, giving small investors the benefits of large investors," says Lorne Weiss, MPAC Chair, who was one of about a dozen MREA members at the event.

MREA believes that small investors with only one or two income properties – and are categorized as "passive" investors by the Canada Revenue Agency – should get the same tax deferral benefits as large investors.

MREA would like to see the capital cost allowance deductions for these passive investors deferred if they purchased another investment property of equal or greater value. The investor would be able to continue to roll those deductions forward until they ceased to be an investor, allowing them to use more of their equity towards purchasing another property.

Weiss says the positive response from individual MPs in Ottawa is a step in the right direction, but more buy-in is still needed. "When we talk to the individual MPs they understand the rationale and the logic behind it. The issue, however, is the Finance Department, who sees it as an attack on their revenue streams."

Typically small investors are heavily involved in the rental housing market, an area that we need a greater inventory of across Canada, says Weiss. "We believe by encouraging more investments in that area, in terms of more advantageous tax regulations, there would be more activity and as a result, more rental housing available."


BECOMING A "FIRST TIME HOME BUYER" THE SECOND TIME AROUND

May 16, 2013, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Manitobans dealing with special life circumstances should be able to borrow against their RRSPs to purchase a home – as if they were a first time home buyer, again - and take advantage of the federal Home Buyers’ Plan, say REALTORS® in Manitoba.

Right now, the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) is limited to first time home buyers and in some cases, those with a disability, or those who have been out of the housing market for more than five years. The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) would both like to see the program expanded to include people dealing with a major life change, such as:

  • job relocation
  • death of a spouse
  • decision to accommodate an elderly family member
  • marital breakdown
"I’m sure there are many Manitobans in life-changing situations that don’t have the required five percent down payment to purchase a home. It would be nice for these people to have access to the Home Buyers’ Plan to get them back under the umbrella of home ownership," said Manitoba Real Estate Association president Brian Canart.

The HBP operates like a zero-interest self-loan because it allows Canadians to borrow from their own savings. Generally, you have to repay all withdrawals to your RRSPs within a period of no more than 15 years. "It’s your money locked into your RRSP. All you would be trying to do is borrow down payment money from your retirement savings. You’d have to pay it back," said Canart.

Canart says in cases of divorce, expanding the HBP would help families and children maintain a more secure home environment and close community ties while going through a rough transition. "Many families go into a suite or other accommodations and try to save money again to get into another home. If they could access their RRSP money a second time, they may be able to purchase a home. Anytime you can get the family back into a home, it’s a much better situation," Canart says. Furthermore, borrowing against an RRSP is a much more financially prudent move than cashing in an RRSP, which would result in additional financial hardship at tax time.

Overall, Canart says assisting those dealing with drastic life changes and with those changes that force a sudden move makes good sense for the economy and the apartment vacancy rate. "If you can take people from a rental situation into a home, it certainly frees up that rental property for somebody else."

MREA/CREA would also like to see the federal government index the Home Buyers’ Plan for inflation. Currently, the HBP is capped at $25,000 for any person in one calendar year. MREA would like to see the program indexed in $2,500 increments to ensure it never loses its purchasing power.

"This initiative is really about getting people into homes," said Canart.

Home Buyers’ Plan – by the numbers:

(source: Canadian Real Estate Association)

  • In 2011, more than 53,000 homes were purchased using the HBP. This resulted in over $2.6 billion in spin-off spending and more than 20,500 jobs.
  • The HBP has allowed over 2.5 million Canadians to save for both retirement and a home without needing to choose one priority over the other.
  • Budget 2009 recognized the need to adjust the HBP for inflation. The limit was raised by $5,000, the first increase since 1992.
  • Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) limits are indexed to the Consumer Price Index and rounded to the nearest $500. The HBP should be indexed incrementally as well.
  • Using Budget 2009 as a starting point, the plan would adjust by $2,500 in 2015 at a cost of $7.5 million. A further $2,500 increase would occur in 2020.
To learn more about the Home Buyers’ Plan, please visit the Government of Canada website.


PST INCREASE DETERS YOUNG "UP AND COMERS" FROM
BUYING A HOME

April 16, 2013, Winnipeg, Manitoba - For Immediate Release - The Manitoba government’s decision to increase the Retail Sales Tax by one percent is a blow to all home owners, especially first time home buyers and young families, according to REALTORS® in Manitoba.

"This government has not demonstrated a great deal of responsibility in terms of making Manitoba a positive, welcoming environment for property owners, encouraging them to invest in Manitoba, said MREA's Chair of the political action committee Lorne Weiss. "The government’s decision to increase PST is going to make home ownership even more expensive. For every home that’s sold on the MLS® system in Manitoba, the spinoff is approximately $40,000 in additional items needed for that home. With today’s PST increase, that amounts to an extra $400 cost - in addition to the Land Transfer Tax, plus the PST on their home insurance premiums, legal fees and the cost of registering the title."

WinnipegREALTORS® Association Director of Public Affairs, Peter Squire says "up and comers are down and out" in this provincial budget, adding that the PST increase is a disincentive for young potential homeowners thinking about moving back to Manitoba. Squire also says the government's decision to phase out the education portion of property tax bills for seniors in this budget may have unintended consequences for young buyers. "The government is encouraging seniors to stay in place, so that won’t free up houses for other people.

"While they’re helping one segment of the market, what is the province doing for the up and comers, the first time buyers – people we want to attract to our province, people we don’t want to see migrate to places like Alberta and Saskatchewan? How are we building our future economy?" asked Squire.

REALTORS® also wonder whether everyone else’s education taxes will increase as a result. "How is the province going to make up the money they’re going to have to cover for seniors, which amounts to $50 million dollars in the next two years? Where are they going to find that $50 million? Some could come from the increase in PST, but a lot of that will be necessary for infrastructure improvements, including the flood protection improvements. Other taxpayers may have to feel the burden for that, said Squire.

In a snap shot here are the (estimated) fees that this generation of homeowners will face on an average $250,000 home in a suburban neighbourhood in Winnipeg once the new PST rules take effect in July.

  • $80 Registration Fee for your new Land Title
  • $20 in PST on Land Title insurance (based on title insurance of $250)
  • $72 in PST on home insurance premiums (based on a $900 policy)
  • $40 in PST on lawyer fees buying and selling (based on $500 in fees)
  • $2,650 in Land Transfer Tax (paid by the buyer)
  • $794 in Education Tax (based on property in the Louis Riel School Division; Total Education tax bill of $1494 minus a $700 tax credit = $794)


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Spend an hour and create a "RED Hot Biz Plan" with a free webinar specifically designed for REALTORS® on Wednesday, April 17 at 11 a.m. The webinar, designed by RealEstateCoach.com, aims to show you how to "leverage your unique strengths to take your real estate business to the top." Register now or learn more.


PREPPING FOR PAC DAYS

March 25, 2013, Winnipeg, MB - The countdown is on to PAC Days in Ottawa, which will see a handful of Political Action Committee, MREA directors and association members head to Parliament Hill on April 29 and 30.

Our members will join about 350 REALTORS® from across Canada to "blanket the Hill" and share CREA issues with Members of Parliament at the CREA event, says Lorne Weiss, Chair of the Manitoba Political Action Committee (MPAC).

"As well as educating our PAC reps , our job there is to visit as many of our MPs as possible, typically in our own riding, and address the main issues that we feel are important to REALTORS® right across the country."

This year the focus will be on bending MPs’ ears and advocating for policy change on two issues.

"First, we’re asking the government to make a commitment to continuing to index the Home Buyers Plan to the current cost of living," says Lorne.

CREA members will also lobby the government to allow property owners to defer previously written-off depreciation, when they sell an investment property and buy another of equal or greater value. This will help lead to small investors having the opportunity for reinvestment in our communities.

"We believe smaller investors should be given the same tax deferral benefits as large investors. This would allow people to use more of their equity towards purchasing another property, resulting in greater investment availability in the short supply rental housing market," says Weiss.

MREA will also host an annual dinner at the Parliamentary restaurant, inviting all Manitoba MPs and Senators to connect with them for some face-to-face time without a formal agenda.

"We find that we’re very well received in Ottawa, because over the years we’ve established a high standard of providing MPs with reliable and well-researched information they can use," says Lorne Weiss, MPAC Chair.

Would you like to attend PAC days next year? Get involved! MREA is always looking for REALTORS® to get involved at the board or association level, or to serve on the MPAC. Contact Lorne or the MREA Office if you’re interested.


THE MYTH OF THE "ONE TAXPAYER"

March 19, 2013, Winnipeg, MB - The Manitoba government likes to remind us that when it comes to taxes, there is only "one taxpayer."

Actually, when it comes to education, that "one taxpayer" can often feel like he was born a triplet.

The Manitoba government's "one taxpayer" pays for education through income tax. If he or she owns a home, he pays for education again on property taxes. And if he or she owns or inherited a cottage, she pays for education tax again. Or maybe he or she invested in property (rather than stocks or bonds) -- so our "one taxpayer" pays again.

When it comes to education, it would be nice if there were indeed "one taxpayer." In fact, that's what many are advocating. Let's pay for education like we do health -- another core service that we all need and we all value. Let's pay for it through the far more equitable income tax and get education tax off property.

If the government believes there is "one taxpayer" then it implies it understands there is a responsibility to ensure that all taxpayers participate fully in the cost of education, not just property owners.

Instead, the government has created a very convoluted education-tax formula that it appears only the Winnipeg Free Press education reporter Nick Martin has the courage to untangle for readers every year, as he did March 16 (Put through the mill).

Depending on whose figures you use, between 35 and 40 per cent of the cost of education in Manitoba is funded through property taxes, based on mill rates established by the trustees of the local school district.

This is unlike other provincial services, such as health care, that are funded through general revenue collected from income taxes based on financial criteria that are the same across the province.

In some areas of the province the education tax on property (like cottage properties) can make up 80 per cent of the property tax bill. To make matters worse, if the "one taxpayer's" second property is located outside of the school district in which the property owner has a principal residence, they do not have the right to vote for the trustees who set the tax rate. It's taxation without representation.

If another Manitoban chooses not to buy property but invest in stocks, bonds or cash in the bank, they only pay income tax on the increased value, and nothing toward the portion of education costs. Why the Manitoba government chooses not to capture that through income tax is confounding.

Manitobans are reaching a tipping point, where the increasing costs of home ownership or the challenge of holding on to the family cottage are no longer manageable for many families. It is time for the province to assume its rightful responsibility to fund education through general revenue, as it rightfully does for other core services. It's time to really commit to the "one taxpayer" mantra.

A good first step should be to eliminate the school tax mill rates being set by the school trustees in each division. Replacing it with a single mill rate for the entire province could ultimately lead to funding education as it should be: from general revenue. This would ensure all of Manitoba's students have access to the same quality of education, regardless of where they live or the size of the tax base in their school district. All Manitobans who pay for education on their property tax bill would then have the right to vote for the officials who set those taxes.

This would also eliminate the need for the property tax credit rebate system that is being used as a bank account by school boards and is counted as a portion of the province's contribution to the cost of education.

Our children and our "one taxpayer" deserve an education system that is transparent, fair and provides the best opportunities for education to all Manitoba children, regardless of their postal code.

- Lorne Weiss, chair of the Manitoba Political Action Committee, Manitoba Real Estate Association.


 

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