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Nova Scotia scraps HST from new rental builds

By Joe Thomson Sep 21, 2023 | 2:42 PM

Premier Tim Houston and John Lohr, Housing Minister, speak at a media conference in September, 2022.

Nova Scotia is following the federal government’s lead and has decided to scrap HST on new affordable rental builds. Justin Trudeau announced the feds are removing GST last week and has been urging the provinces to follow suit.

Premier Tim Houston made the announcement today and estimates the decision will cost the province 80-100 million dollars a year, but that’s a number he’s happy to live with if it means addressing the housing crisis in Nova Scotia.

“Look, this is an investment in housing–It’s a significant investment, there’s no question about that–and in many ways, I hope the cost goes up because that means there was more housing starts and more construction happening,” said Houston.

According to Houston, Nova Scotia will directly mirror the federal government’s program for removing GST, aside from the time frame. Instead of removing the tax for the next five years, Houston says Nova Scotia will institute the program for two years and then reassess their decision at that point.

“We’ll do it for two years. There’ll be a lot of other initiatives that we put towards the overall solution. But that’s where they’re starting, and we’re happy to start there too,” said Houston.

Housing minister John Lohr agrees that removing HST will help spur more construction throughout the province. He said contractors will have to be cognizant of the fact that the program is time limited and act soon to capitalize on their potential to save. He believes those savings will be transferred to Nova Scotians looking for a place to live.

“It’s certainly the case that if increased costs are incurred by developers, they’re passed on. So, we would think that works both ways,” said Lohr.

The Nova Scotia Liberals have been calling for Houston to remove HST since last week’s announcement and are happy that they’ve committed to doing so.

“Our province is facing severe challenges with the highest rates of inflation and rental increases in the country. The Houston government needs to be prepared to work with all levels of government to tackle these issues and ensure Nova Scotia becomes an affordable place to live once again,” said opposition leader Zach Churchill in a press release.

Churchill is shifting his focus to put pressure on the Houston government to release their housing strategy, which was supposed to release this spring.

With the housing crisis worsening by the day, this latest move by Houston may be a step in the right direction toward addressing the issue and giving more Nova Scotians access to affordable homes.