Governments, builders and labour must work together to meet housing targets: report

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Published August 17, 2023 at 12:30 pm

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A report from Ontario’s Big City Mayors and the Smart Property Institute says government, industry and labour must “come together” to address six core challenges to meet the demand of 1.5 million homes in Ontario needed over the next decade.

Ontario has never built more than 850,000 homes in a ten-year period, making the demand extra challenging as the province tries to keep up with an aging and growing population and huge wave of immigration expected to need homes in the coming years.

The report asks the question, “Who is responsible for making that happen?” and then answers its own question: All three levels of government, along with the higher education sector, developers and builders, trade unions, not-for-profit groups, and the financial services industry; just to name a few.

The report Working Together to Build 1.5 Million Homes released by the PLACE Centre (an initiative of the Smart Prosperity Institute) and Ontario’s Big City Mayors calls   upon all levels of government, industry, and labour actors in the housing system to come together to create a plan to make this 1.5 million homes objective a reality.

The six challenges identified in the report are:

  • A lack of coordination between governments and the private and public sector
  • Shortages in materials, financing, and skilled labour, from electricians to planners
  • High costs, including taxes and fees, making many projects unviable
  • Slow-to-no productivity growth in the homebuilding sector
  • A regulatory environment that prevents many high-quality, climate-friendly, homes from being built
  • A lack of non-market housing, from co-op housing to on-campus student rentals.

A lack of coordination creates a need for government, industry, and labour to work together and develop a plan outlining roles and responsibilities, along with a shared accountability framework, with regular meetings and updated plans to track the progress, the report noted. For the plan to work, the report adds, everyone involved must be “accountable, appropriate, consistent and reliable,” and up-t-date data must always be made available.

The report also outlines what each player in the system must do to reach the housing targets:

  • Federal Government: Ottawa must ensure that immigration and international student policies are aligned with housing policy. They can increase the number of skilled trades people through immigration reform and play a vital role in financing infrastructure by providing financing and insurance for projects, including those using novel technologies such as mass-timber. The federal tax system also plays a crucial role in the viability of projects, from the GST/HST to accelerated capital cost provisions to import tariffs on materials.
  • Provincial Governments: The Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force provides a blueprint for the province, with the majority of the 55 recommendations yet to be implemented. Provincial policy is crucial in both training workers and bringing in skilled workers from overseas. Land Transfer Taxes and other fees can increase the cost of housing.
  • Municipal Governments: Local governments play a pivotal role through a variety of regulations, including zoning and the approvals process. Municipal governments often have land and other resources that can be used to build new
  • Builders and Developers: Private sector homebuilders and developers can support non-market housing by sharing expertise with not-for-profit developers. They can strive to avoid submitting low-quality applications to ensure as many proposals as possible become ‘One and Done’ or ‘Two and Through.’ They must work to increase the productivity of the sector and be willing to try new techniques and technologies, such as modular construction.
  • Labour and Higher Education: Training the next generation of skilled workers is vital in building enough homes. Labour must be willing to adopt new technologies and techniques, many of which are developed by academic researchers. Higher education must ensure there is enough housing available in their community to support growing enrollments.

The report also stresses that simply building homes is not sufficient and that thought must go into making communities where families can raise children and there is adequate infrastructure, and homes are affordable and accessible to all.

All with the country’s climate and environmental goals in mind as well.

“Building 1.5 million in Ontario in ten years will take a wartime-scale effort. All three orders of government along with builders, developers, the higher education sector and the skilled trades must work together to make it happen.” says Dr. Mike Moffatt, report author, the founder and Director of Communities at the PLACE Centre.

The full report is available online at: https://placecentre.smartprosperity.ca/working-together-to-build-1-5-million-homes/

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