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Pope Francis formally strips Vatican secretariat of state of financial assets, real estate holdings – The Globe and Mail

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This photo taken by the Vatican Media on Dec. 21, 2020, shows Pope Francis during an audience for Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia, in The Vatican.

HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis has formally stripped the Vatican secretariat of state of its financial assets and real estate holdings following its bungled management of hundreds of millions of euros in donations and investments that are now the subject of a corruption investigation.

Francis signed a new law over the weekend ordering the secretariat of state to complete the transfer of all its holdings to another Vatican office by Feb. 4. The law also calls for all donations to the pope – the Peter’s Pence collections from the faithful as well as other donations that had been managed by the secretariat of state – to be held and managed by the Vatican’s treasury office as separate funds that are accounted for in the Holy See’s consolidated budget.

The changes are a response to a spiralling Vatican criminal investigation into years-long allegations of mismanagement of donations and investments by the Vatican’s secretariat of state which has resulted in losses of tens of millions of euros at a time of financial crisis for the Holy See.

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Francis had already ordered the transfers in August and followed up in November by appointing a commission to put the changes into effect. The new law makes the changes permanent and sets a firm date for their execution.

Francis said he was making the changes to improve the administration, control and vigilance over the Holy See’s assets and ensure a more “transparent and efficient management.”

Francis moved against his own secretariat of state amid an 18-month investigation by Vatican prosecutors into the office’s 350-million-euro investment into a luxury residential building in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood and other speculative funds.

Prosecutors have accused several officials in the department of abusing their authority for their involvement in the deal, as well several Italian middlemen of allegedly fleecing the Vatican of tens of millions of euros in fees.

The scandal has exposed the incompetence of the Vatican’s monsignors in managing money, since they signed away voting shares in the deal and agreed to pay exorbitant fees to Italians who were known in business circles for their shady dealings.

Francis’ decision has been an embarrassing blow to the secretariat of state’s standing as the most powerful Holy See office, reducing it to essentially any other department that must propose a budget and have it approved and monitored by others.

The outcome is essentially what was sought years ago by Cardinal George Pell, Francis’ first economy minister who clashed with the secretariat of state over his financial reforms and efforts to wrest control of the department’s off-the-books funds.

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Pell had to abandon those reform efforts in 2017 to face trial for sexual abuse in his native Australia, but he was acquitted and recently told The Associated Press he felt vindicated that the wrongdoing he tried to uncover was being exposed.

The Holy See is facing a major cash crunch as its main source of revenue, ticket sales from the Vatican Museums, evaporated this year due to coronavirus closures. The Holy See last year narrowed its budget deficit from €75-million to €11-million.

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Real eState

What Is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

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The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a Canadian Crown Corporation that serves as the national housing agency of Canada and provides mortgage loans to prospective buyers, particularly those in need.

Understanding the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) serves as the national housing agency of Canada. CMHC is a state-owned enterprise, or a Crown corporation, that provides a range of services for home buyers, the government, and the housing industry.

CMHC’s stated mission is to “promote housing affordability and choice; to facilitate access to, and competition and efficiency in the provision of, housing finance; to protect the availability of adequate funding for housing, and generally to contribute to the well-being of the housing sector.”1

A primary focus of CMHC is to provide federal funding for Canadian housing programs, particularly to buyers with demonstrated needs. CMHC, headquartered in Ottawa, provides many additional services to renters and home buyers, including mortgage insurance and financial assistance programs. CMHC acts as an information hub for consumers, providing information on renting, financial planning, home buying, and mortgage management.

CMHC also provides mortgage loan insurance for public and private housing organizations and facilitates affordable, accessible, and adaptable housing in Canada.2 Additionally, CMHC provides financial assistance and housing programs to First Nations and Indigenous communities in Canada.3

Professionals and Consumers

CMHC provides services to both professionals and consumers. For professionals, CMHC aims to work in collaboration with different groups to provide affordable housing. Services include project funding and mortgage financing, providing information to understand Canada’s housing market, innovation and leadership networks to access funding and talent to spur housing innovation and increase supply, and providing speakers and hosting events for the industry.4

For consumers, CMHC seeks to provide all the tools an individual would need to either buy a home or rent a home and a variety of information and assistance for current homeowners, such as managing a mortgage, services for seniors to age in place, and financial hardship assistance.56

For financial hardship and mortgage assistance, CMHC provides tools that include payment deferrals, extending the repayment period, adding missed payments to the mortgage balance, moving from a variable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage, and other special payment arrangements.7

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the National Housing Strategy

In November 2017, the Canadian government announced the National Housing Strategy.8 Rooted in the idea that housing is a human right, this 10-year, $70 billion project will largely be administered by CMHC, although some services and deliverables will be provided by third-party contractors and other Canadian federal agencies.9

Strategic initiatives of the National Housing Strategy include:

  • Building new affordable housing and renewing existing affordable housing stock
  • Providing technical assistance, tools, and resources to build capacity in the community housing sector and funds to support local organizations
  • Supporting research, capacity-building, excellence, and innovation in housing research10

History of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

CMHC was established in 1946 as the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation by the federal government in Canada with the primary mission of administering the National Housing Act and the Home Improvement Loans Guarantee Act and facilitating discounts to mortgage companies. Initially, CMHC began by providing housing to returning Canadian war veterans, and toward the end of the 1940s, CMHC began to administer a program providing low-income housing across Canada.11

In 1947, CMHC was responsible for opening Regent Park, a large low-income housing project, and Toronto’s first urban renewal project. By the 1960s, CMHC introduced co-op housing and multi-unit apartment buildings throughout Canada.11

In 1979, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation changed its name to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

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Real eState

Canadian home price gains accelerate again in May

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Canadian home prices accelerated again in May from the previous month, posting the largest monthly rise in the history of the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, data showed on Thursday.

The index, which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes in 11 major Canadian markets, rose 2.8% on the month in May, led by strong month-over-month gains in the Ottawa-Gatineau capital region, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Hamilton, Ontario.

“It was a third consecutive month in which all 11 markets of the composite index were up from the month before,” said Daren King, an economist at National Bank of Canada, in a note.

On an annual basis, the Teranet index was up 13.7% from a year earlier, the 10th consecutive acceleration and the strongest 12-month gain since July 2017.

Halifax led the year-over-year gains, up 29.9%, followed by Hamilton at 25.5% and Ottawa-Gatineau at 22.8%.

Housing price gains in smaller cities outside Toronto and its immediate suburbs again outpaced the major urban centers, with Barrie, Ontario leading the pack, up 31.4%.

On a month-over-month basis, prices rose 4.9% in Ottawa-Gatineau, 4.3% in Halifax and 3.7% in Hamilton.

The Teranet index measures price gains based on the change between the two most recent sales of properties that have been sold at least twice.

Canada‘s average home selling price, meanwhile, fell 1.1% in May from April, Canadian Real Estate Association data showed on Tuesday, but jumped 38.4% from May 2020.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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Economy

Bank of Canada seeing signs of cooling in hot housing market

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The Bank of Canada is starting to see signs that the country’s red hot housing market is cooling down, although a return to a normality will take time, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Wednesday.

The sector surged in late 2020 and early 2021, with home prices escalating sharply amid investor activity and fear of missing out. The national average selling price fell 1.1% in May from April but was still up 38.4% from May 2020.

“You are starting to see some early signs of some slowing in the housing market. We are expecting supply to improve and demand to slow down, so we are expecting the housing market to come into better balance,” Macklem said.

“But we do think it is going to take some time and it is something that we are watching closely,” he told the Canadian Senate’s banking committee.

Macklem reiterated that the central bank saw evidence people were buying houses with a view to selling them for a profit and said recent price jumps were not sustainable.

“Interest rates are unusually low, which means eventually there’s more scope for them to go up,” he said.

Last year, the central bank slashed its key interest rate to a record-low 0.25% and Macklem reiterated it would stay there at least until economic slack had been fully absorbed, which should be some time in the second half of 2022.

“The economic recovery is making good progress … (but) a complete recovery will still take some time. The third wave of the virus has been a setback,” he said.

The bank has seen some choppiness in growth in the second quarter of 2021 following a sharp economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the year, he added.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)

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