Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-520, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, which would amend the federal government's home buyers' plan.
I would like to thank the member for Delta—Richmond East for introducing this bill. I would also like to highlight the excellent work my colleague, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, has done on this issue.
The bill we are examining today would increase the ceiling on RRSP contributions that an individual could use to purchase a new home from $20,000 to $25,000.
This bill could be very interesting to young couples. It would enable them to purchase their first home, but contributing to an RRSP from a young age also enables them to develop good savings habits. With this bill, the ceiling on contributions would go from $40,000 to $50,000 for a couple with enough money in their RRSP.
Obviously, the Bloc Québécois supports this measure, because it will make it easier for many young Quebec families to purchase homes.
Furthermore, during pre-budget consultations, the Standing Committee on Finance indicated in its report that the government should quickly adopt this measure. It is not expensive, it would help support the construction industry, and, as I said, it would help young couples purchase homes.
In its supplementary opinion on pre-budget consultations, the Bloc Québécois said it supported the recommendation to increase the amounts available under the home buyers' plan in order to make home ownership more accessible. The government did not include this, and many other recommendations, in its recent budget. Let us hope that this bill will help move things along as quickly as possible in the interest of the people we represent.
The federal government's home buyers' plan currently allows an individual to withdraw up to $20,000—$40,000 for a couple—from their registered retirement savings plan to purchase or build their first home. This program works and it is time to increase the amounts involved, given the increase in the cost of housing.
As I just said, the purpose of this plan is to help young families buy their first home. It encourages buyers to save money to put a down payment on a house. By putting the emphasis on the down payment, this plan helps the buyer reduce their debt load over the years by significantly reducing their mortgage payments.
Since its creation in 1992, this plan has clearly been effective. Since that time, roughly 2 million people have used this plan with the goal of buying their first home.
To a certain extent, this type of program has helped Canadians and Quebeckers avoid the difficulties that a number of borrowers in the United States have experienced lately. We are all aware of the crisis that climbing mortgage costs have caused.
As I was saying earlier, Bill C-520 proposes to increase the ceiling to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a couple.
Obviously, this amendment was created to respond to the significant increase in the price of houses that we have been seeing in recent years. In the riding I have the honour of representing, the price of houses has risen considerably. Whether in the Trois-Rivières-Ouest area or in Lavaltrie, Lanoraie or Berthier, house prices have risen steadily for a number of years now. It is becoming increasingly difficult for some people to buy their first home.
Improving the program as Bill C-520 seeks to do will help matters somewhat. In addition, I believe that this program will encourage economic development and social cohesion in our regions. More and more young families may choose to move to the regions and contribute to the strengthening of local communities.
As well, adopting this bill is a positive and necessary measure in increasingly uncertain economic times. With the price of gas going up, although the Conservatives prefer to ignore the effects on our communities, it is obvious that the prices of many essential consumer goods, such as food, transportation and of course houses, will unfortunately continue to rise.
In Quebec today, La Presse published an article about how the cost of fuel is causing families' transportation costs to go up. For example, a person living in Lavaltrie who commutes to Montreal every day is now spending $50 to $60 more per week. These costs are significant. We have to lower the interest rates that these young people, and many not-so-young people have to pay to buy their first homes, a purchase that can, in many cases, improve their lives and their living conditions. That is why it is so important to provide our fellow citizens with programs that can help them somewhat.
As legislators, we want to help families buy their first homes, and at the same time, we want to encourage them to save. I think that the committee will have to make some amendments to improve certain aspects of this bill. For example, there is the matter of indexing amounts. This measure is important because it will ensure that in 10 years, for example, the amount set out will still be enough and will still be relevant with respect to changing costs of buying a house. We should not have to come up with a new bill every time.
I will conclude by saying that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill for families because it is in the interest of all Quebeckers and therefore of all Canadians.
As a responsible party, we are prepared to work with the other members to improve the socio-economic status of the people we represent. But I should point out that there are other pressing housing needs. We must not forget that there is still a critical need for social housing. Recently, we have seen that social housing is also a problem in regions such as Rouyn-Noranda and Rimouski. Investment in social housing is also needed.
In conclusion, we need to help low-income individuals and families and the middle class obtain adequate, affordable housing. The federal government needs to step up to the plate on this issue, especially since it can afford to, with its surplus. This money should be used to improve the living conditions of all those who are in need and who need our support to improve their quality of life.