OTTAWA -- Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is zeroing in on the housing crisis, pledging to build a million homes in three years and raise barriers to foreign investors.

On a quiet cul-de-sac in Ottawa, O'Toole said the supply of homes, including rental, has lagged behind the country's growing population and that investors abroad are parking their cash in Canadian residential properties, prompting a "housing crisis."

"All of this throws up barriers to young families looking for more space for their kids, people who found a good job and want to buy their first home and retired empty-nesters trying to downsize, none of whom can find the home they need," he said.

In their platform, the Tories outline plans to create one million homes in the next three years by repurposing some federal buildings, banning foreign investors who live outside the country from buying property for at least two years and making changes to the mortgage stress test.

The party wants to release 15 per cent of federally owned buildings into the housing market, explore converting office space to housing and allow developers to defer capital gains taxes if they reinvest in rental properties.

"Our housing plan is comprehensive and it will be effective," O'Toole said. "It will give all Canadians a chance to build the life they dream of, to live on a street with good neighbours."

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party would build 500,000 homes and make housing affordable for Canadians, including rental prices, noting that one-in-three residents are renters.

Heftier personal savings, house-obsessed millennials and historically low interest rates during the COVID-19 pandemic have conspired to send residential prices soaring amid a dire shortage of units, and threaten to boost rents when provincial freezes thaw.

The Canadian Real Estate Association says the average home-sale price in Canada rose 26 per cent year-over-year in June to $679,000, with sales activity up by 14 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.