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Canada to lease government land in plan to add millions of homes

By Promit Mukherjee

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada plans to ease a housing shortage by leasing public land to developers for construction of affordable houses under a plan unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday that aims to build nearly 3.9 million houses by 2031.

The government said the land is underutilized. The property could potentially include abandoned industrial parks, sites of defunct government companies and schools with low enrollment.

The plan still falls 1.2 million units short of what is needed from 2023 to 2030, according to national housing agency Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

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The Liberal government has announced a series of measures to address the housing crisis over the past two weeks, and the issue is expected to dominate next week's federal budget.

The flurry of activity follows a surge in housing and rental prices that has caused Trudeau's Liberals to lag the Conservatives in opinion polls before an election that must be held by October 2025.

"It is a plan that is actually going to make a difference in the lives of Canadians," Trudeau told reporters in Vaughan, Ontario.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser said other new measures include changes to a capital-cost tax structure that will encourage institutional builders to construct more homes, proposals to extend low-cost loans and combating on mortgage fraud that artificially inflates the cost of houses.

Mike Moffatt of the Task Force for Housing and Climate, an independent think tank, said builders and other stakeholders would need to invest close to C$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) to achieve the government's 3.9 million homes target.

"We are going to need to see more on the math, and we will need to see more on (the cost) in the budget. But I think overall we have seen some pretty significant reforms in today's package," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Rapid growth in Canada's immigrant population has driven the housing shortage along with inflation and high interest rates.

Housing in Canada is largely the responsibility of the 10 provinces and major municipalities. Ottawa, which has no direct role in construction, relies on policy measures and funding.

($1 = 1.3760 Canadian dollars)

(Additional reporting by Nivedita Balu and Ismail Shakil; editing by David Ljunggren, Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman)