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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

Homebuilders and their associations are only as good as their executive leadership. Bob Finnigan, currently COO Housing at The Heron Group of Companies, who was recently named CHBA Member of the Year, has led them all – local, provincial and national bodies. With such unique and extensive expertise, Finnigan shares his insights on recent industry and government initiatives, and what’s to come to address issues facing the industry and homebuyers.

Condo Life: You were recently named CHBA Member of the Year. How does that feel, as an established industry veteran with so many years in so many important capacities?

Bob Finnigan: When they first made the announcement, my initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this person has done a lot of work.’ Then I realized it was me! It’s a very nice surprise, and I’m very honoured for being recognized in this way by my peers. I have been volunteering for a long time, and the years have passed very quickly – so the workload seems normal to me – but when it is highlighted, you realize that, in fact, your efforts do make a difference.


CL: What do you think was the chief reason or accomplishment that earned you such accolades?

BF: I would think that in addition to the years of previous work, including serving on the boards as president of all three levels of homebuilders’ associations, it was the additional efforts I had put in over the last year to ensure that the items I have been working on will be seen to fruition. Those of us who serve on the boards do so in order to better the industry on an ongoing basis. We all feel strongly about what we do, and we know what needs to be changed to continually improve the situation for builders and homebuyers.

CL: How are you applying this now award-winning expertise in your current capacity?

BF: The award is great, but essentially, nothing has changed for me where my work is concerned. My passion is still to bring new houses to people who are proud to call them home. In a way, the work on the associations is an extension of what I do every day at Heron and Herity.

CL: Ontario recently unveiled its Housing Supply Action Plan. What’s your assessment of it?

BF: I applaud the provincial government for moving this way. It is definitely a step in the right direction, but a lot of things have to happen before the program will work. My assessment is, let’s see how it rolls out. Things change all the time, and we have already seen the program evolve with new announcements. As long as we keep moving in this direction, the results should be positive and good.

CL: What are its key strengths, and where does it come up short?

BF: Its key strengths include cutting red tape to make it easier to build a variety of types of housing in the right places, and hopefully making housing more affordable in the process. Paperwork and layers of permits, approvals and development charges add greatly to the cost of new homes. This plan looks at the situation in a pragmatic way. Up until now, the choice of homes in specific areas has been restrictive. Obviously, the government has been listening to what we in the industry have been saying for years. Now, it will be interesting to see how long the rollout and implementation take.

CL: In its budget in March, the federal government, by many industry accounts, failed to truly tackle some of the key challenges in the housing industry. What do you think Ottawa should have done, and should focus on making happen, going forward?

BF: The federal government’s mortgage stress test that came into place in January 2018 has been a huge problem for homebuyers across the country. A lot has changed since then, and in the two markets the stress test was designed for (Vancouver and Toronto), it has certainly cooled things – but it also had strong negative effects and hurt the rest of the country.

Sales are down in many markets, and even if they are not, people who could have purchased prior to January of 2018 with the very prudent lending rules the banks had in place, are now shut out of the market or have to get additional financial help. Even worse, many have turned to unregulated lenders that don’t have to adhere to the rules, and that charge a much higher rate than regulated lenders. The potential homebuyer loses both ways. We had hoped that the government would recognize these market changes and look to relax the stress test for longer-term mortgages – five years or more – but it did not.

In addition, we asked that they reinstate the 30-year amortization period, again making the qualifying payments easier to afford. It does not create any additional risk; it just allows more people to realize the dream of homeownership.


What Ottawa did do was to announce additional RRSP funds that can be taken out to purchase a home, which is very good, and also a CMHC program that will help bring homeownership within the financial reach of some purchasers. The concern with the CMHC program is that it is complicated, the specifics of which have not been fully disclosed yet and won’t be until the fall, and it is capped, so is limited in scope.

As such, we continue to call for the stress test reduction and the 30-year amortization as an instant and no-cost solution to the many Canadians wanting to get into homeownership. If they did this, we would see many more Canadians come into the market.

CL: Between the federal and provincial government involvement, plus more on a municipal level, and actions such as BILD’s Building Answers public awareness campaign, the homebuilding industry is really involved with all stakeholders. Where is all this going? What’s next? What else needs to happen?

BF: All three levels of homebuilders’ associations are working more closely than ever before. Of course, technology helps keep us connected on a nationwide level so we are all on the same page, wherever we are in the country. We all have the same concerns, but on different scales. One thing we agree on is that housing affordability is the number one issue facing young Canadians. Our collective associations’ goal is to drive this message home to all three levels of government. The province seems to have gotten onside with that goal, with the recent Housing Supply Action Plan. Municipalities still need to work harder to make Development Charges more reasonable and to cut red tape. The federal government has different pressures to deal with, but making it more difficult for people to purchase with actions such as mortgage stress test is totally counterproductive.


When I’m not at the office: I never sit still. I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I play hockey, golf, ski, bike, work around the house. I love it all. I also love to travel, which helps to keep me active.

The accomplishment or achievement I am most proud of in my career in homebuilding is: I’d have to say working with my colleagues at Heathwood, Heron and Herity – a group that has stayed together for decades. To me, these people are family members, and it shows in the communities we build. I am also extremely proud of helping to establish The Mikey Network in memory of our late friend and colleague Mike Salem. That we have helped to save many lives in his name is a true privilege.

What’s next for you, personally or professionally? While I am not on any association board officially, I am still active in the industry by serving on the board of Tarion and helping out when asked. What’s next for me both personally and professionally is to continue what I’ve been doing for years – a good balance of work and play!


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Bob Finnigan

CHBA names Bob Finnigan Member of the Year

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CHBA names Bob Finnigan Member of the Year

Bob Finnigan
Bob Finnigan

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) has named Bob Finnigan, partner at Herity (Heathwood Homes), CHBA Past President, member of BILD GTA and long-time building industry executive, as its Member of the Year.

CHBA presented the award, one of its annual Association Leadership Awards, during its 76th National Conference in Niagara Falls on May 10. The prestigious awards showcase the contributions, qualities and accomplishments of leaders within the association.

Association Leadership Awards

  • Member of the Year, Bob Finnigan, recognized for his many years of dedication and leadership at the national level of CHBA.
  • Home Builders’ Association of the Year, Saskatoon & Region HBA for its record of membership development and services, internal leadership and governance, and the effectiveness of its government advocacy and communication activities.
  • Executive Officer of the Year, Guy Huntingford from BILD Calgary Region, for exemplary leadership during his time at the association.
  • Community Service Award, CHBA Edmonton Region, for new and ongoing charitable activities and positive impact on the community.



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Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

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Mikey Network one example of how homebuilders give back

by Andrew Pariser

Every February is heart month and with it comes the annual heart health campaigns from various groups, including the Mikey Network. While their slogan is “The Beat Goes On,” their message is of awareness and preparation.

In construction, two important health and safety principles are awareness and prevention.

By studying near misses we can gain valuable information, which can be used to prevent future accidents or respond in the most effective way possible when an emergency situation occurs.

That’s why it is important to talk about a program like The Mikey Network, which provides portable defibrillators for all kinds of public spaces, including construction sites. It’s a registered charity that has distributed about 2,200 easy-to-use units across Canada, with 1,600 of those in GTHA schools, hockey rinks, golf courses, apartment buildings and shopping centres. We we even have one at RESCON headquarters.

Many in our industry have heard of Mikey and how it began after beloved Heathwood Homes marketing VP Mike Salem, 56, died in 2002 at the Bigwin Island golf course on Lake of Bays after suffering a cardiac arrest. That led Heathwood Homes’ founder Hugh Heron to spring into action.

However, few realize that 35 lives have been saved by Mikeys, including Archer Hackett of Renfrew, Ont.

In January 2015, Archer was three months old and suffering from an abnormal heart rhythm. His parents were driving him to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa when they had to pull over on the side of the road after he suffered a cardiac arrest. They put the pads on his tiny chest and re-started his heart.

Morty Henkle of the Mikey Network donates four Mikeys to the Halton Region Police Service.
Morty Henkle of the Mikey Network donates four Mikeys to the Halton Region Police Service.

“That is the youngest person that we have had the good fortune to have saved,” says Morty Henkle, executive director of the Mikey Network.

Archer was one of eight lives saved in 2015, the highest number in one year throughout the 12 years of the program.

Reading a letter from Archer’s parents, Henkle said the couple “cannot express how grateful we are. Archer wouldn’t have survived without your help. We’re so thankful to have him home.”

Henkle says saving Archer’s life was a big moment for the Mikey Network.

“I was truly amazed that we were so lucky to have placed a Mikey with a family that was able to save this child’s life,” Henkle says. “Every save is a big save. We’ve had teenagers, we’ve had young children, a person in their 70s, but when you can actually save a child that’s just coming into the world, it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

Heathwood Homes president Hugh Heron admitted he got emotional when he heard Archer’s story.

“A three-month-old baby. Just imagine. There were tears in my eyes – just for a child to be given a second chance, it’s fantastic,” he said.

About 230 children in Ontario carry a Mikey – donated to families by the Network –Heron said. The Mikey Network also has a close relationship with both the Peel District School Board and the Toronto District School Board.

Heron said the Network is trying to put Mikeys in as many public spaces as possible, and he believes defibrillators should be on every residential construction site in the GTHA. “Builders owe it to their staff to have defibrillators. Everywhere there is fire extinguisher there should be a defibrillator. We want to make this a cardiac-safe city.”

Heathwood’s Bob Finnigan – president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – agrees.

“When you’ve got a site with 100-plus people and it’s hot and they’re working hard, it’s important to keep them safe. Highrise builders should look at having those kinds of stations on every second or third floor.

“You look at those 35 direct saves, and who knows how many of those people would have had direct access to a defibrillator.

“It’s a tangible asset that gives you a chance to survive if you’re in cardiac arrest. There’s 2,200 places in Canada that are a whole lot safer than they would be without one.”

We are proud to say our office is one of them, and that the builder making the GTHA a safer region is a member of RESCON.


  • Cardiac arrest has no respect for age – whether someone is three months old or 80, anyone can suffer one.
  • If someone suffers a cardiac arrest, they will be unconscious. Here’s what to do: Call 911, then open the defibrillator unit. The machine gives simple, verbal instructions, monitors the person’s heart and assesses whether to shock it.
  • The Mikey portable defibrillator can jolt the heart back into a rhythm with up to 360 joules.
  • The unit can be used two to three times, but the battery and pads must be replaced after each use.
  • If the Mikey sits unused, the pads must be replaced every two years, and the battery must be replaced every five. The unit will last 10.

Learn more about this terrific program at mikeynetwork.com.

Andrew Pariser Andrew Pariser is the vice-president of RESCON and chair of the RESCON health and safety committee.

Reach him at pariser@rescon.com.


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In Conversation With – Bob Finnigan

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In Conversation With – Bob Finnigan

By Gale Beeby

Affordability the biggest issue facing homebuyers, says the president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

Bob Finnigan is one of those rare people — well spoken, well dressed, hard working and with a heart as big as a barn; in a word, a gentleman.

But when it comes to housing affordability, Finnigan has a few things to say and he says them with the passion of a person who cares about homeowners.

Canadians — particularly those in the GTA — are facing an affordability crunch for new housing that has left first-time homebuyers behind, says Finnigan, the new president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). “It’s the culmination of a lot things, including a growing disparity between incomes and home prices and constrained land supply on top of Ontario’s Places to Grow policy, which demands higher levels of density everywhere in the province, not just the major cities.”

Home prices in the 1950s and ’60s, cost about three times the income of a single wage earner. In the GTA now, house prices are six to 10 times higher than the income of a two-income family, according to CHBA.

On top of that, 94 per cent of Canadians want to buy lowrise housing (detached, semis and townhomes) but can’t afford it, according to data collected by CHBA.

“Until we get a constant stream of lowrise housing in the GTA, new product is going to be priced at a premium. There are a lot of people chasing a few homes,” Finnigan said, noting that over 300,000 people come into the country each year — 100,000 into the GTA.

Adding to the price of new homes is a supply issue caused by the Ontario government, Finnigan says, lack of serviceable land, complicated building codes, regulation and approval process delays and developments fees, which cost a total of $6 billion annually across the country.

Finnigan points to a long delay in Whitby waiting for approvals as an example of the waste of time and energy required to reach the point where shovels can get into the ground.

“In 2006, when the growth plan was announced, bringing new lands into the urban boundary stopped for five years — and then it took five more for the region and towns to figure out all the new rules. Delays increase costs, which then, of course, adds to the cost of a new home. When Country Lane finally came to market, over 500 homes were sold in six weeks.”

Also, Finnigan adds, there is clearly a need for Ontario to facilitate the quicker release of the already approved development lands to ease the supply shortage.

Affordability in the GTA is also greatly affected to higher costs of living, including property taxes, utilities and transportation costs.

“It’s about time we stopped taxing new homebuyers and share the costs of infrastructure among the entire community,” Finnigan says of development charges, which can add thousands of dollars to the price of a new home.

The CHBA is also suggesting that the GST be removed from municipal development charges on new residential developments, calling it a “tax on a tax.”

“I’d also like to see tax breaks for purpose-built rental housing, especially ‘secondary suites’ — rental units in lowrise homes — which are not allowed in most municipalities.

“This would certainly address some of the issues of affordable housing and also help homeowners finance their homes.”

Read his article here


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Everybody Is Searching For The Right Home

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Everybody Is Searching For The Right Home

Just as builders and developers ask where our young people and the continual influx of immigrants will live, we also ask where baby boomers will find homes that accommodate their needs as they age.

Baby boomers represent the largest demographic movement in Canada’s history. This massive segment of the population includes people born between 1946 and 1965, making them between 50 to 71 years old. According to Statistics Canada, in 2014/2015, the growth rate of the population aged 65 and older was four times that of the total population.

As baby boomers retire or prepare for retirement, baby boomers begin to look at their future housing needs and many realize that these needs are, and will be, changing.

The progression is natural one. Younger people starting families need larger homes as the family grows, and conversely, many baby boomers with empty nests tend to seek more compact living quarters as well as maintenance-free lifestyles. They are tired of the shoveling, mowing and other routine maintenance, and they would like to be able to unlock and enjoy some of the considerable equity they have in their current homes when they downsize. The opportunity to cash in on this level of equity power simply didn’t exist a decade or two ago.

A condominium can be the answer for some, but many cannot envision moving from a single-family home into a 750 to 1,000- square-foot highrise condo with limited parking. If they want a larger suite (not readily available in today’s newer buildings), it means considering older residences, many of which are in urgent need of repair and do not have modern features or amenities.

Because of soaring real estate prices and the scarcity of new ground-orientated housing, especially single-family homes (baby boomers are not looking for multi-storey townhomes), there are very few options in the GTA. As a result, they look farther out in the smaller towns and cities where these options do exist, and there is still excellent access to shopping, entertainment, recreation and healthcare.

To the east and west of the GTA along Highway 401, to the north along Highway 400, and the Niagara area — all within two hours of the GTA — homes are much more affordable and there is product available that better suits baby boomers. Smaller, ground orientated housing of various types, both condo and freehold, offer modern designs and amenities, many with single-floor living with the master bedroom on the main floor. Some plans even have additional bedrooms in a loft for visiting family and/or friends. It may mean living farther away from children and grandchildren, and of course, that always has to be factored into the choice of location.

We now see people in their 60s and 70s — and even in their 50s — taking this step so they can lead the lifestyle they want. They are thinking ahead and banking the equity they have. Many go back to being single-income couples before retirement or semiretirement, and when they want big city life or have business to do, they can travel to Toronto and stay in a hotel for a couple nights.

Looking at your lifestyle and planning ahead for your next move can be a very fulfilling and pleasant experience. Take the time to understand your choices and the places you might want to move. Visit them more than once, whether a condo or a property just out of town, and make the best decision for you.

BOB FINNIGAN is the principal and chief operating officer for housing at Herity (formerly the Heron Group of Companies). He also vice president of The Mikey Network, a charity that places defibrillators in public places.



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CHBA president to talk housing affordability with feds

CHBA president to talk housing affordability with feds

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CHBA president to talk housing affordability with feds

Remi Network

Bob Finnigan, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, or CHBA, heads to Ottawa this week to talk to the federal finance committee about housing affordability. Of particular concern for the group is one of the latest changes to mortgage rules, which expanded an existing stress test from a limited pool of prospective homebuyers to all insured borrowers.

The stress test raises loan eligibility rules by requiring prospective homebuyers to qualify for mortgages at a higher interest rate than what they will actually pay, as a way to gauge their ability to absorb interest-rate hikes. In some cases, the move disqualified prospective homebuyers who qualified for mortgages under the old rules, said Finnigan, and it has adversely affected markets outside of active regions such as Toronto and Vancouver.




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