For some time now, storm clouds have been gathering over the housing market. But today the crisis is there and threatens our economic recovery.
Young people can no longer enter the housing market and start a family. High prices are causing a talent drain as people seek more affordable living conditions. While immigration is expected to exceed 400,000 people over the next few years, the situation shows no signs of improving.
It is estimated that we would need to build 650,000 more homes just for Ontario to reach the same average level of housing per capita as other provinces.
But enough numbers. The question is what are we going to do about it?
The Home Builders Council of Ontario (RESCON) recently held a housing supply summit to answer this question.
We’ve invited politicians, speakers and panelists to explain how we got here, talk about what we can learn from other jurisdictions and offer ideas on how we can provide more housing, increase the number of rental units and also stimulate labor supply.
It was a packed four hour session with a diverse group of 27 informative speakers.
More than 700 people took part.
We were impressed with the ideas and thoughts put forward by these influencers and innovators on a wide range of topics. A survey showed that attendees enjoyed the event.
Importantly, we learned that the federal and provincial governments, provincial party leaders and big city mayors across Ontario are all on the same page when it comes to the crisis. They agree that this is a critical situation and agree that urgent action must be taken.
The other good news is that the session showed that we are aligned both politically and industrially.
Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, who is chair of the Big City Mayors Caucus of Ontario, all noted that the situation was very serious, as did other provincial parties. leaders – Andrea Horwath (NDP), Steven Del Duca (Liberal) and Mike Schreiner (Greens).
As many of them pointed out, all governments need to work together and involve both the private and public sectors if we are to tackle the problem.
As Clark pointed out, Canada has the lowest housing per capita of any G7 country. An additional 1.2 million homes would need to be built in Ontario to catch up with our international peers.
The More Homes, More Choice Act was a step in the right direction and now, and as Clark said, we must respond to the sweeping recommendations made by a housing affordability task force. The reforms would address restrictive zoning, increase density in urban and suburban areas, legislate development approval timelines and make digitization and e-permits a priority.
The task force’s plan to build 1.5 million homes is ambitious, but it’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we need.
All Ontarians should have access to housing. But many young people have given up on the prospect of ever owning a home.
It is obvious that we urgently need additional measures put in place immediately to reduce bureaucracy, speed up the construction of new houses and make them affordable.
Hussen said at the summit that the federal government is doing all it can to remove barriers, while Lehman stressed that federal and provincial governments will have to resist the temptation to adopt short-term solutions and also focus on how to double the labor supply in construction.
Currently, Canada ranks 34th out of 35 OECD countries in development approvals and the World Bank ranks us 64th out of 190 countries.
As I mentioned earlier, the lack of affordable housing threatens our economic recovery. The Toronto Region Chamber of Commerce and WoodGreen Community Services said in a report that the lack of affordable housing is costing the GTA up to nearly $8 billion a year, or nearly $38 billion over a period of five years.
We have the opportunity to change that.
There is no quick fix to the problem. But we know we need to put the basics in place now.
Specifically, we need to speed up the review process so builders can move faster on projects. Several reports, including those from RESCON, show that it takes far too long to achieve this.
There is no doubt that a collaborative and coordinated approach by government, industry and other stakeholders is needed.
As we learned at the summit, other jurisdictions around the world have already faced similar situations, so we can learn from them.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
However, we need to start now, not six months from now or a year from now, because time is running out. The RESCON summit was a crucial step to help get the ball rolling.
Hopefully this will create momentum for continued change.
Richard Lyall is President of the Home Builders Council of Ontario. Send your comments and industry insight column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.