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In Conversation With Cheryl Shindruk, BILD Chair, & Executive Vice-President, Geranium

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In Conversation With Cheryl Shindruk, BILD Chair, & Executive Vice-President, Geranium

Homebuyers may not realize or appreciate it, but hard at work behind the scenes on their behalf are industry organizations such as the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). In the last few years, given the challenging affordability, supply and policy issues facing the GTA housing market, BILD is not just important but essential to protecting the public interest.

Charged with building on this momentum for the next two years as BILD Chair is Cheryl Shindruk, who also is executive vice-president of land development at homebuilder, Geranium.

HOMES Magazine spoke with Shindruk to get her insights on these and other issues.

HOMES Magazine: You recently spoke at BILD’s Chair’s Dinner, with your topic being “leading change.” How do you, or BILD, plan to lead change in your tenure as Chair?

Cheryl Shindruk: The continued success of BILD, and our reputation as an industry, depends on our commitment to professionalism and excellence. We must be principled and fact-based in our approach; determined to have a voice and communicating our message loud and clear.

One way we can achieve change is to continue to focus on educating the public on the role our industry plays in contributing to the high quality of life this region offers, and the challenges we have delivering housing that people can afford, where and when it is needed.

HM: What were some of the other key messages in your address?

CS: Our advocacy agenda with government achieved some great momentum in 2018. We need to continue our work to help government create a regulatory environment and approvals process that is fair and streamlined, free of duplication, while protecting the public interest, and creates positive conditions that allow our members to build and renovate homes, and places for people to work and play. Collectively, we need to work to restore balance and stability in the housing market.

HM: The industry – through BILD, the OHBA and TREB – has made great strides over the last few years in getting governments to understand the challenges facing builders and developers, and therefore homebuyers. What’s your outlook for these relationships – how do you see things progressing over the next year or so.

CS: I believe in the power of partnership and collaboration with all levels of government, with the financial institutions, sister construction associations, chambers of commerce and BIAs, with our colleagues in the environmental and resource sectors and, with the media. We will continue to strengthen these partnerships as a means to achieving regulatory environment that allows us to meet the housing, commercial and industrial building needs of this region.

HM: Try to look ahead to a year or so from now. What accomplishment would signal your tenure as BILD Chair as a success you would be proud of?

CS: Our organization is poised to take on the challenges of 2019. The staff and board of BILD are highly qualified when it comes to talent, experience and work ethic. Advancing our advocacy agenda with government; further educating homeowners and prospective buyers; and restoring balance and stability in the housing market will signal to me that we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.

BILD Chair
BILD Chair Cheryl Shindruk, centre, with BILD President Dave Wilkes, left, and William Moore, president, Solutions Ink.

HM: Through this interview with HOMES Magazine, you’re also speaking directly to prospective homebuyers – who are growing increasingly concerned about affordability in the GTA. What would you say to them on this and other topics they need to be aware of, to keep their homebuying hopes realistic?

CS: Two things: Educate yourselves on the issues contributing to affordability, and get involved. In conjunction with traditional media channels, the Internet provides an abundance of information about our industry. Be sure to check sources and subscribe to different outlets for a balanced picture.

Ensure that your elected officials understand your concerns and viewpoint, at all levels of government.

We are committed to working with government and stakeholders so that our industry can do its part in delivering an ample supply and mix of housing options, and achieving balance and stability in the housing market. We need a regulatory environment and approvals process that allows this to happen.

HM: How has your work at Geranium prepared you for your position as Chair of BILD?

CS: I have been fortunate to have been able to pursue a career that merges my passions for city planning, community building, business and volunteerism. Since joining Geranium in 2003, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many complex and challenging files, receiving guidance and mentorship from outstanding business partners and Geranium’s principals, who lead by example. I’m inspired by our land development team, and we’ve all embraced a strong commitment to communication, consultation and collaboration. This is what helps me most in my role with Geranium and prepares me for the position of Chair of BILD.

Chair’s Dinner
Shindruk at the podium, delivering her keynote address at the 2019 Chair’s Dinner.

HM: Let’s talk more about Geranium… What’s in store for 2019?

CS: On the sales and marketing side, we will continue to sell and build our design-forward new homes in Aurora, Stouffville, Toronto East and Pickering. With our partners in Friday Harbour, Innisfil, we’re bringing this resort community to fruition on Lake Simcoe. We expect to launch new home communities in Port Perry and Pickering. We’ll also be continuing our planning and development processes on existing land holdings, working with government and agencies to create places which contribute to the diversity of housing styles, employment and lifestyle opportunities, while enhancing the communities we have the privilege of working in.

HM: How do you think your work at BILD will benefit you in your day job at Geranium?

CS: I value the work of BILD, OHBA and CHBA, which is why Geranium is a member. Our President, Boaz Feiner was a two-term BILD board member, and Louie Morizio, senior vice-president of construction, has served on RESCON’s board of directors. Whether through a formal role, or in other ways, Geranium and I will continue to have a voice in our industry.

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The View From Inside: Have Your Say!

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The View From Inside: Have Your Say!

Why voting in municipal elections is important

Canadians lives are greatly affected by the policies of, and decisions made by, our governments. Fortunately, we live in a country where we can express our views at all levels – by voting.

The upcoming municipal elections across Ontario offer an opportunity to influence local outcomes, and many feel, as I do, that voting is both a privilege and a responsibility. Municipal councils are elected to make decisions that affect us directly. Among these are the delivery of important services such as water, sewage treatment, waste collection, public transit, land use planning, emergency services, economic development, libraries, parks design – all of which have a lasting impact on our communities.

At Geranium, we see the effects of municipal election outcomes firsthand. Over 20 per cent of the cost of a new home is comprised of government fees and charges, which are set by elected officials.

A 2018 study by the Altus Group found that average government charges for a single-detached home in the GTA amount to $186,300, representing 21.7 per cent of the cost. Since 2004, development charges have increased across the GTA between 236 and 878 per cent. Of course, this is affecting the affordability of new homes.

Elected officials are also responsible for approving official plans, which provide guidance on where and what type of homes can be built. They approve zoning bylaws that control the standards for new home construction. These cover elements such as how far from the street a dwelling should be set back, how much of the lot can be covered by buildings and the spacing between houses.

The length of the process for these approvals affects the time to deliver new homes to the market. Local governments have an opportunity to streamline approvals, remove duplication and waste to facilitate timely home construction. They can also work with the building and development industry to meet the variety of needs in the community: people renting, first-time homebuyers, and those ready to scale down, to name a few. Ensuring there is an adequate supply of serviced land for the construction of new homes is an important role played by municipal councils. The complex development process requires careful planning and timely processing to ensure homes can be built in response to market need.

Local councils are also responsible for approving official plans that guide change in our neighbourhoods. They may identify new greenfield areas for development that require the extension of municipal services. They determine density targets to achieve intensification goals and earmark locations for intensification and redevelopment that can utilize existing infrastructure. They also set locations of parks and schools.

Whether or not you are in the market for a home, decisions are being made that may affect you now, or in the future. Each year, the building, development and professional renovation industry creates thousands of jobs and contributes billions of dollars to our local, provincial and national economy. Find more information at BuildForGrowth.ca. Take time to research the candidates running for election to find out whose values you share. Voting is a way of having a direct say about the future of our communities.

Cheryl Shindruk is executive vice president, land development for Geranium. Celebrating over 40 years in business Geranium has created master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside : Transforming A Golf Course

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The View From Inside : Transforming A Golf Course

By Cheryl Shindruk, Geranium

According to Golf Canada, The PGA of Canada and the National Golf Foundation in their report entitled “Golf Facilities in Canada 2017,” there are 805 golf courses in Ontario. Declining interest in the sport over the past few years translates to fierce competition among these clubs to attract golfers. In some cases, including within the Greater Toronto Area, golf course owners have had to decide whether it makes more sense to continue operating or sell their properties. When circumstances allow, these lands make great new home communities as they present an opportunity to build in an already established area.

An example of golf course redevelopment is Allegro, Geranium’s new neighbourhood on Golf Links Drive in Aurora, formerly the Highland Gate Golf Club, which became available for redevelopment.

Many circumstances worked in favour of development. The golf course lies within the built-up area of the Town of Aurora’s urban boundaries, an area where the provincial and municipal governments are directing growth. The built-up areas are where provincial policy encourages infill and intensification. From a planning and development perspective, the course had similar characteristics to many infill communities.

Sometimes, existing owners, after many years of enjoying the views to open green space behind, consider the golf course to be an extension of their lands and views. Yet residents must remember that these courses are private lands. In this type of situation, it’s important that the land developer liaise with existing neighbours.

To inspire harmonious interaction, we conducted a very extensive communications process that involved one-on-one discussions with more than 400 households, as well as group meetings. First and foremost, we wanted to let them know that we are taking extensive steps to protect — and enhance — the natural components of the property.

Geranium has designed the community and the homes to maintain the character and cachet of their prestigious surroundings..

We have set aside nearly half of the re-envisioned Allegro land as open green space with an extensive system of off-street trails that connect to the Oak Ridges Trail System. Where these open green space areas were formerly private, once the site is developed, they will be placed in public ownership.

We also pointed out that in other golf course transformations of this type, the impact on existing homes from a resale perspective has been positive. Toward this goal, Geranium has designed the community and the homes to maintain the character and cachet of their prestigious surroundings.

Our Allegro community will introduce a new vitality to this neighbourhood, with a combination of single-family detached homes on 51- and 62-foot lots and, later on, a sevenstorey condominium building closer to Yonge Street, near to transit and existing condos and shops. Another benefit is that adding new households to the area also positively impacts local businesses along Yonge Street.

New home developments have to meet the criteria, regulations, tests and approvals set out by all levels of government. In the case of a golf course, the master plan has to be innovative, as we may need to incorporate unusual shapes and sizes of individual lots. The installation of servicing and transportation must be done carefully, respecting the existing surrounding neighbourhood conditions. As with any new home community site, grading and ensuring appropriate soil conditions and water quality also affect development.

In all residential development, whether infill or not, developers must adhere to the stipulations set out by the government. In the end, we think long term to ensure a win-win situation, with homes and infrastructure that meet the needs of the existing community, governments and our future homeowners, today and in the many years to come.

Cheryl Shindruk is executive vice president, land development for Geranium. Celebrating 40 years in business Geranium has created master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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