On September 14, 2023, the federal government announced proposed legislation to boost the existing GST Rental Rebate for new purpose-built rental housing from 36% to 100% for qualifying buildings, while eliminating the phase-out thresholds for rental units above $350,000 in value (the "Enhanced Rental Rebate"). This is potentially game-changing news for Canada's housing industry and is aimed at incentivizing new supply of rental stock across the country, including apartment buildings, student housing and senior residences.
The Government of Ontario was quick to endorse the announcement and has signaled that it intends to follow suit when it comes to Ontario's portion of the HST.
The Enhanced Rental Rebate would apply to projects that begin construction between September 14, 2023 and December 31, 2030, inclusive, and complete construction by December 31, 2035. Other eligibility requirements include that the new residential units must:
- meet conditions of the existing GST Rental Rebate; and
- be in buildings with:
- at least 4 private apartment units (ie. with a private kitchen, bathroom and living areas); or at least 10 private rooms or suites (ex. a 10-unit student residence); and
- 90% of the residential units being designated for long-term rental.
Conversion projects (ex. converting an office building into a residential complex) would be eligible for the Enhanced Rental Rebate; however, individually-owned condos, single-unit housing, duplexes, triplexes, housing co-ops, houses on leased land, sites in residential trailer parks and substantial renovations of existing residential complexes will NOT be eligible (though may still be eligible for the existing GST Rental Rebate).
While it is anticipated that there will be amendments to the Excise Tax Act (Canada), at this time no draft legislation has been released. As such, there remain questions about the eligibility and implementation of the Enhanced Rental Rebate which may only become more clear once more information becomes available. Nevertheless, the government seems to be clear that the Enhanced Rental Rebate is effective as of the date of the original announcement.
This proposed legislation is poised to change the residential construction market, offering greater economic incentives to developers. Previously, developers would be subject to the "self-supply" rule and would have to pay GST on the fair market value of the property at the time of substantial completion of the building or first occupancy, whichever is later, and could only claim a partial rebate. Now, the Enhanced Rental Rebate fully offsets the tax liability and essentially cancels the tax for developers of eligible buildings. As an example, a $500,000 rental unit could receive $25,000 in federal tax relief and $40,000 in provincial tax relief, which could significantly impact the bottom line.
If these measures are effective, we may see a surge in construction activity in the purpose-built rental sector and an increased supply of rental properties to address the demand for affordable housing. Builders and developers (and their counsel) will be eagerly awaiting additional details of the legislation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.