Tag Archives: Dave Wilkes

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

In many of my columns, I focus on the need to increase housing supply in the GTA and the regulatory and policy barriers that are leading to shortfalls. This issue, I’d like to highlight the benefits that the building and land development sector brings to the region. When all of the data is unpacked, many people are surprised to find out that the industry is an economic engine of the region.

Each year, members of our industry construct about 40,000 homes of various types – detached single-family homes, townhomes and highrise apartments – as well as countless commercial buildings and, increasingly, purpose-built rentals. To get the job done, they employ people in more than 120,000 jobs, both on-site in the trades and construction positions that carry out the building, and off-site in the planning, design, architectural, engineering, financial and support services, that enable the physical construction. These are local jobs that will stay local. The industry adds more than $7 billion in wages to the GTA economy, which in turn get spent and support the people and companies that provide goods and services to those employed in construction and development. New home building contributes $17 billion in investment value in the GTA.

When home renovations and repairs, including those carried out by BILD’s RenoMark renovators, are added to the mix, the numbers are even more impressive. The home renovation and repair sector employs people in more than 150,000 jobs, bringing the overall total of jobs created by new home building, renovation and repair to about 270,000, a significant portion of the GTA job market. The renovation and home repair segment has a payroll of $9 billion and represents $16 billion in investment value.

All this activity results in new communities and renewal of existing housing stock – buildings and infrastructure where people can live, work and play. It also results in significant tax revenue for all levels of government, which is reinvested in the programs and services that support our society.

Aside from the income and corporate taxes that result from home building and renovations, each home constructed contributes to the public coffers. A 2018 study commissioned by BILD and conducted by Altus Group found that the fees, taxes and charges applied by all levels of government and rolled into the cost of a new home accounted for 22 per cent of an average GTA singlefamily home (or $186,500) and 24 per cent of an average highrise apartment (or $121,500).

About a third of that is the HST that flows to the federal and provincial governments. Approximately another third consists of development charges that go to the regional and municipal governments to fund infrastructure, roads, transit and municipally provided social services such as affordable housing and daycare. Other government charges on new homes include parkland dedication, which municipalities collect to support new parks; land transfer tax, which goes to the province; and in the case of Toronto, municipal land transfer tax, which goes to the city.

Every new home built provides a place for a family to live, supports three fulltime jobs, generates economic activity that supports the broader economy, and lastly, provides tax revenues for all levels of government, supporting government programs, services and infrastructure enjoyed by all residents of the GTA. The building, land development, and professional renovation industries are truly engines of our economy.

Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on:

Twitter.com/BILDGTA
Facebook.com/BILDGTA
YouTube.com/BILDGTA
and BILD’s official online blog:
BILDBlogs.ca

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

In many of my columns, I focus on the need to increase housing supply in the GTA and the regulatory and policy barriers that are leading to shortfalls. This issue, I’d like to highlight the benefits that the building and land development sector brings to the region. When all of the data is unpacked, many people are surprised to find that the industry is an economic engine of the region.

Each year, members of our industry construct about 40,000 homes of various types — detached single family homes, townhomes and highrise apartments — as well as countless commercial buildings and, increasingly, purpose-built rentals. To get the job done, they employ people in more than 120,000 jobs, both on-site in the trades and construction positions that carry out the building, and off-site in the planning, design, architectural, engineering, financial and support services, that enable the physical construction. These are local jobs that will stay local. The industry adds more than $7 billion in wages to the GTA economy, which in turn get spent and support the people and companies that provide goods and services to those employed in construction and development. New home building contributes $17 billion in investment value in the GTA.

When home renovations and repairs, including those carried out by BILD’s RenoMark renovators, are added to the mix, the numbers are even more impressive. The home renovation and repair sector employs people in more than 150,000 jobs, bringing the overall total of jobs created by new-home building, renovation and repair to about 270,000, a significant portion of the GTA job market. The renovation and home repair segment has a payroll of $9 billion and represents $16 billion in investment value.

All this activity results in new communities and renewal of existing housing stock — buildings and infrastructure where people can live, work and play. It also results in significant tax revenue for all levels of government, which is reinvested in the programs and services that support our society.

Aside from the income and corporate taxes that result from homebuilding and renovations, each home constructed contributes to the public coffers. A 2018 study commissioned by BILD and conducted by Altus Group found that the fees, taxes and charges applied by all levels of government and rolled into the cost of a new home accounted for 22 per cent of an average GTA single-family home (or $186,500) and 24 per cent of an average highrise apartment (or $121,500).

About a third of that is the HST that flows to the federal and provincial governments. Approximately another third consists of development charges that go to the regional and municipal governments to fund infrastructure, roads, transit and municipally provided social services such as affordable housing and daycare. Other government charges on new homes include parkland dedication, which municipalities collect to support new parks; land transfer tax, which goes to the province; and in the case of Toronto, municipal land transfer tax, which goes to the city.

Every new home built provides a place for a family to live, supports three full-time jobs, generates economic activity that supports the broader economy, and lastly, provides tax revenues for all levels of government, supporting government programs, services and infrastructure enjoyed by all residents of the GTA. The building, land development, and professional renovation industries are truly engines of our economy.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

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Toronto tour of laneway housing

Toronto tour of laneway housing

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Toronto tour of laneway housing

Photography: Craig Race Architecture Inc.

A few weeks ago, we took BILD’s RenoMark renovators and custom homebuilders, as well as a number of journalists, on a tour of laneway and infill homes in Toronto. We were delighted by the level of interest in this event and happy to add an extra bus to accommodate everyone. We were not surprised to see that people are enthusiastic about the possibilities of laneway housing and eager to learn about the technicalities of building them. With laneway dwellings allowed to be built “as of right” in Toronto and East York as of only last summer – and with city council expected to make a decision in the near future on expanding this to Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke – we are all entering exciting new territory.

The adjunct advantage

A laneway home is typically a second, smaller dwelling built at the back of a lot, facing onto a public lane that shares utilities with the main house. Laneway housing has many advantages, both for homeowners and for neighbourhoods. For the homeowner, a laneway home can be a source of rental income or provide extra living space for extended family. For neighbourhoods, having homes facing onto laneways can improve safety and inject beauty and vibrancy. Laneway housing increases density in a non-intrusive way, enabling a more efficient use of infrastructure such as: transit, schools and community centres. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, laneway homes will contribute some much-needed rental housing in the city of Toronto.

Style meets function in The Junction

The Junction

That will certainly be the case with the first project on our tour – a laneway home that just broke ground in The Junction. The homeowners, who graciously answered questions from our tour participants, are planning to rent out the two-storey, three-bedroom house when it’s completed later this year. With more than 1,400 sq. ft. of living space, this home will do away with notions that laneway homes are cramped sheds in backyards. The best part? The homeowners report that the neighbours are excited, and some are even interested in building on their own lots.

The second laneway home on the tour also offered a feeling of spaciousness, both in the open-concept living area on the ground floor and in the courtyard behind the house. This two-storey, two-bedroom Leslieville home, currently rented out to a young family, was converted from an existing garage.

Sustainable supplement

Leslieville

Next on the tour was an infill project in Leslieville. Infill construction means building and renovating homes in established neighbourhoods. Infill homes, like laneway homes, add gentle density in our communities. The infill home we visited was created after an architect severed an unusually shaped lot into two separate properties. The home is filled with light and its high-performance building envelope helps conserve energy. A basement apartment provides extra rental income.

Laneway building incentives

The City of Toronto is offering two programs to encourage homeowners to develop laneway suites. The first allows for a deferral of development charges for 20 years, while the second provides a forgivable loan for property owners who agree to rent out their laneway suites at an affordable rate for 15 years.

Are you thinking of adding a laneway home on your property, or building or renovating an infill home? Laneway and infill building projects come with their own unique challenges when it comes to zoning requirements, design considerations and construction techniques. Your best bet is to work with a professional RenoMark renovator or custom homebuilder who can guide you through the process. To find one in your area, visit renomark.ca.

Making sure we have enough housing for the 9.7 million people who will call the GTA home by 2041 is a generational challenge. We need innovative solutions — laneway and infill homes among them — to meet it.

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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What Bill 108 means for housing affordability in the GTA

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What Bill 108 means for housing affordability in the GTA

Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, received Royal Assent on June 6. The policy changes are intended to improve housing affordability in the GTA by ensuring cost certainty for development projects, reducing red tape and shortening the time frame for land use approvals. This will enable the delivery, more quickly, of more quality places to live and work.

Let’s take a look at the changes to the Development Charges Act (DCA), which enables municipalities to impose charges on development to pay for municipal services such as roads, water and public works. Bill 108 proposes to narrow the range of services for which development charges can be imposed in order to align with the new Community Benefits Authority (CBA), which will fund soft services like daycare centres and libraries. Development charges would then be imposed for certain hard services, like water, roads and transit. Changes to the DCA will also increase predictability for the industry and for consumers by allowing for development charges to be locked in earlier in the development process.

The government’s key objective in introducing changes to the DCA is to make housing more affordable and provide more certainty about some of the costs associated with building housing in the GTA. Development charges account for approximately 10 per cent of the cost of a new home across the GTA and have been rising quickly. These changes make upfront development costs more predictable and transparent, benefiting the new home buyers who ultimately pay for these costs in the price of a new home.

Rental housing is not left out. In order to support a range and mix of housing, including new rental buildings, changes allow for the deferral of development charges for rental housing and not-for-profit housing until occupancy, with payment occurring over five years, and freeze development charge rates at an earlier point in time. This provides an incentive, and reduces barriers, to build rental and not-for-profit housing by allowing for an amortization of some of the upfront costs over a period of time.

Speeding development

An overall focus on speeding development and reducing duplication is woven throughout Bill 108 and gives communities and the development industry more confidence on what they can build and where they can build it. It can take years before shovels can break ground on a new housing project. Some government policies and processes are duplicated and can create delays for no reason, which drives up costs for new home buyers. Complex administrative red tape can slow down developments as a project can face dozens of municipal, regional and provincial studies, reports, checklists, plans and standards required as conditions of approvals, many duplicate. This is in part why it takes 11 years to complete a lowrise project and 10 years to complete a highrise project in the GTA.

Lastly, the changes provide more clarity when it comes to being able to build denser communities near transit nodes, in areas where it makes sense due to investments in infrastructure that have been made to support growth. It will now be easier and faster to build more housing, including affordable housing, near transit. Municipalities will get help to implement community planning permit systems near major station areas and provincially significant employment zones, which will streamline planning approvals to 45 days. Transit supportive housing just makes good planning sense.

Desperate needs

As the government moves toward developing regulations to support Bill 108, there will undoubtedly be lots of discussions. It would serve us well to remember that the changes are about encouraging more housing that the region desperately needs, in the right mix, quicker, near transit and at a price the average resident can afford. It’s hard to argue with that.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). bild.ca

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Lessons from Tokyo

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Lessons from Tokyo

Exploring how other cities and countries approach housing, planning and development can often provide us with insight to enable us to better meet the housing needs of the residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In early June, a Building and Land Development Association (BILD) delegation visited Tokyo and came away with quite a few impressions.

The population of the city of Tokyo is just shy of 10 million people and the population of the Greater Tokyo Area is approximately 38 million with a population density of 6,158 people per sq. km. This would be compared to Toronto’s three million and the GTA’s 6.4 million with a population density of 4,457 people per sq. km. So, while we have challenges in the GTA you can you can well imagine the magnitude of the task of housing, moving and providing places to work, shop and play for 38 million residents.

One of the first impressions of Tokyo is the transportation infrastructure. It is simply humbling to behold. Thirteen subway lines carry 8.7 million riders daily, by elevated trains and mono-rails, an integrated commuter rail system that fans out from multiple stations to all corners of the region and tripled stacked highways that snake through the heart of the city and bypass sensitive areas with tunnels. It’s enough to leave the average Ontarian with infrastructure envy. Tokyo makes it work. Their transportation system is efficient and it’s amazing.

The second impression is the typical built form for housing. There is literally housing that we refer to as missing middle in the GTA, everywhere in Tokyo. Midrise apartment buildings are the dominant housing type; the average building is about eight stories high and is spread throughout the neighbourhoods and regions of Tokyo. In the GTA, we refer to this type of housing as the “missing middle” because of the almost total absence of this type of housing that includes stacked townhomes and midrise buildings. The key feature of this type of housing is its ability to provide gentle density and increased housing supply when land is at a premium.

The third lesson is how transportation infrastructure and housing work together seamlessly. Homes are built near transit stations that form hubs around neighbourhoods. Everything is within walking distance of rapid transit of one form or another and balances the impact of the movement of people between automobiles and public transportation. While traffic congestion occurs, it’s nowhere near what we experience across the GTA on a daily basis.

Lastly, is the approach of the Japanese toward land use and built forms. At the risk of gross oversimplification, land use is flexed to requirements and when needs change so too do the buildings, torn down and rebuilt to accommodate a differing or changing need. It means there is change in housing stock, urban renewal and the concept of a “stable neighbourhood” like we have in Toronto doesn’t generally exist.

There are many lessons to take from Tokyo, and as our region’s population grows by almost 40 per cent through 2041, these lessons should be kept in mind as the GTA plans to house these people in the future.

DAVE WILKES is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

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Plan Ahead: BILD president shares insider tips to ensure your renovation comes up roses

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Plan Ahead: BILD president shares insider tips to ensure your renovation comes up roses

Like thousands of people in the GTA every year, I just had a major renovation completed on my home. It was a great way to make sure that my home meets the changing needs of my family, and that it is updated with features and designs that match our current tastes. In doing so, I experienced first-hand the benefits of using a professional renovation contractor, and putting into practice what the Building and Land Development Association (BILD) and its RenoMark renovators recommend to all their clients.

By following our own recommendations, I didn’t experience any nightmare scenarios that unfortunately, are more common than anyone would like to think. The end result was fabulous, the project was finished on time and on budget, and while most renovations often have some bumps in the road, the process went relatively smoothly.

Here are some of our top tips:

  • Spend the time upfront to have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve. Know your budget, and make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Chances are, as you proceed with your renovation, you will likely have to make some trade-offs between what you want and what you can afford.
  • Choose your renovation contractor carefully. Interview at least three. If you don’t know where to start, you can find a list of RenoMark renovators on the RenoMark.ca website with renovators in your city from coast to coast. The benefit of using a RenoMark member is that they are professionals, they carry all the applicable licenses and insurance coverages (including WSIB). Also, they will always provide a written contract, provide a two-year warranty on their work and continually upgrade their skills with ongoing education provided by the local home builder’s associations (HBA).
  • When interviewing potential renovation contractors, make sure that they understand your vision for the renovation and are able to work with you to fine-tune your project. Ask for references from previous clients and check them! Don’t just be satisfied with pretty pictures and a snazzy brochure. If they are not a RenoMark renovator, ask them to provide evidence of insurance and workers compensation coverage, ask about their warranty coverage and ask if they are members of the local HBA. Insurance and WSIB coverage are important because if the renovator does not have coverage, you, as the homeowner, could be liable in the event of an accident on the job site.
  • Make sure you have a comprehensive written contract with the renovator. This will make sure you get the renovation you want, and protects you in the event something goes wrong. Check our website for tips that outline some of the most common terms and features you will want to make sure are included in your contract.
  • As the renovation progresses, make sure to stay in regular contact with your renovation contractor. Book regular progress meetings. Changes are bound to occur with the project as you are working with an existing, and sometimes older, structure or home. When you do make changes, make sure to document them with your contractor in a change order.

Fortunately, my overall experience was a very positive one. I worked with a professional and was very happy with the end results. Remember: you wouldn’t hire someone off the street to repair your car; you would go to a licensed mechanic, so why would you risk the biggest investment of your life, your home, to a nonprofessional just to save a few dollars?

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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Good news for the GTA

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Good news for the GTA

The Housing Supply Action Plan (Plan) announced by the Government of Ontario on May 2 represents the first major step by any provincial government to address the supply challenges facing the housing market and their effects on affordability. The actions announced recognize that the “tax and restrict” approaches taken by previous and other levels of governments have simply fuelled the generational challenge faced by many in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and other large Canadian cities.

Layers of bureaucracy, outdated zoning, and complex policies and procedures have created structural barriers to the efficient operation of the housing market that have resulted in a generational shortfall of housing. These barriers delay development of new homes, add costs and have contributed to the run-up in housing costs experienced over the last decade. On average it now takes 10 years to build a typical highrise project and 11 years to complete a lowrise project in the GTA.

It is estimated that since 2006 the region fell short approximately 98,000 units versus forecasts, and is now falling behind by nearly 10,000 additional units per year. In addition, demand has increased as the GTA has become one of the fastest growing regions in North America with an estimated 115,000 new residents arriving every year. The population of the GTA is set to grow by 40 per cent or an estimated 9.7 million people by 2041. Residents in the area looking to buy their first homes and renters will be impacted the most.

Ontario’s new Housing Supply Action Plan takes meaningful steps to try to balance the housing market through supply and speed. First, it has recognized that the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) is not working for anyone, as evidenced by the nearly 1,000 cases and nearly 100,000 housing units that are stuck waiting for adjudication. Clarifying rules and increasing resources for the tribunal and being able to proceed with even 50 per cent of the units currently before the tribunal will go a long way to address the existing housing shortfall.

Second, the Plan acknowledges that it takes far too long to get approvals and looks to reduce duplication, cut red tape and speed up the development approval process. This will enable the industry to unlock housing supply and bring new product to market to meet demand. At the same time the Plan acknowledges that speed cannot come at the expense of other things that matter and explicitly recognizes the importance of the Greenbelt, cultural heritage assets and key employment and agricultural lands.

Third, the Plan adjusts provincial policy to encourage a mix of homes and to make it easier and faster to build more housing near transit. This will encourage more of the missing middle type housing (townhomes, stacked townhomes and midrise) so sorely needed in the GTA.

Lastly, the proposed changes also acknowledge the cumulative effect that taxes, fees and charges have on housing affordability. For market housing, providing the ability to lock in development charges early in the process increases predictability for the industry and consumers. Deferring development charges until occupancy provides greater incentive to build rental units and special provisions for social and not-for-profit housing will also lower the upfront cost of building.

The beneficiaries of these changes are the people and businesses of Ontario. The benefits for the average resident include having a greater choice in housing at the right price for them and their children. A healthy market that ensures that housing will not be a barrier to attracting and retaining the right talent will benefit businesses looking to grow.

Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on: Twitter.com/BILDGTA Facebook.com/BILDGTA YouTube.com/BILDGTA and BILD’s official online blog: BILDBlogs.ca

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Savvy savings: Energy-efficient tips for your home that will ultimately save you money

Savvy savings: Energy-efficient tips for your home that will ultimately save you money

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Savvy savings: Energy-efficient tips for your home that will ultimately save you money

Your home may look the same as your neighbours’ home, but it may be costing you more money to maintain it. The assumption that all homes are created equal is not true. Within the GTA, there are homes that were built in the 1800s and have since been renovated 20 times or more. Let me help explain where you might be wasting money every month and provide you with some tips to help improve the energy efficiency of your home on your next home renovation.

Energy efficiency in your home is a combination of many different parts (electricity, heating, cooling, air leakage and insulation). Making your home more energy efficient in an integrated way can be very complicated and needs to consider all aspects of your home. You can start this process on your own with a few easy steps.

Electricity

Managing your electricity costs can be as simple as switching your light bulbs to LED. This alone can save you over 60 per cent of your lighting electricity use. You can go one step further and use newer light switches that have a dimming feature, occupancy sensor (it will turn the light off if you leave it on) and smart-home features. These light switches cost more upfront, but they will save you money in the long run – especially if you have a person in your home that always forgets to turn off the light when they leave the room!

Heating and cooling

Make sure that your thermostat is installed in a central location without anything blocking it. If you have a curtain or something else blocking the airflow around it, then it will not register the temperature in your home properly and lead to over-heating or over-cooling. Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your thermostat! Just like smoke detectors, there is a practical life expectancy for these devices. I suggest that after 10 years of use, you should consider replacing it.

As for the temperature setting, this is a personal preference. Some people like a warmer or cooler house, and control of that is completely up to you. But consider your temperature settings for when you are not at home, and adjust your temperature setting by 10 degrees Celsius. Your system won’t turn on when you don’t need it to, so this will save you money in operational costs and also increase the lifespan of your heating and cooling system. A Smart thermostat allows you to return your home to a comfortable temperature, firing the system 30 minutes before you arrive.

Your passive choices

After addressing the more proactive things, like your thermostat settings and lighting systems, you should look at the passive parts of your home that are costing you money. Let’s look at air leaks. If the seals around windows and doors are leaking, then you are losing valuable heated or cooled air all the time. This can be fixed simply by replacing the gaskets or applying caulking. You can also eliminate air leakage and create a much better building envelope by rebuilding old exterior walls – integrating a well-detailed air and vapour retarder and adding insulation to create a more comfortable living space.

Using a professional renovator to help guide you through the process of making your home more energy efficient will help save you money. Always remember to obtain a detailed contract and get building and electrical permits when they are required, this will protect you and ensure that the work is completed according to code.

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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Providing homes for hardworking individuals

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Providing homes for hardworking individuals

In hindsight, the signs were there all along: A rapid escalation of land values, the slowing of new development across the Greater Toronto Area, and a rise in community resistance against new development in existing neighbourhoods. This is the legacy of the previous provincial government’s Growth Plan and housing policies in the GTA. Our current challenges around housing supply and affordability are the result.

The new provincial government is looking to make much-needed changes, even as critics raise predictable objections. Never mind that these same critics never supported any development plan nor are likely do to so, and never mind the disheartening prospects confronting those looking for a new home or apartment in the GTA. Nor does it matter to these pundits that the region is growing annually by 115,000 people, all requiring housing, places to work, schools, and commuting infrastructure.

The fact is, despite the critics’ objections, the changes proposed by the government are quite measured and focus on two areas. The first is a housing supply action plan that outlines how we get more homes for rent and purchase built faster. The government is looking at proposals to remove barriers and speed up development, as it currently takes more than 11 years to complete an average lowrise development and 10 years to complete an average high rise development in the GTA.

The government is also looking for proposals on ways to encourage “missing middle housing” – the townhomes and low and midrise apartments that provide gentle density in existing neighbourhoods and can serve as starter homes at a lower price point. Finally, the government is looking for proposals to lower the cost of development by addressing the cost of land and the charges added to new developments. This in turn will positively impact the affordability of new homes.

The second area the government is focusing on is adjusting the Growth Plan, the policy that guides where and how development occurs across the GTA and the Greater Golden Horseshoe. One matter under consideration is adjusting density targets — the number of people and jobs required per hectare — a direct determinant of built form and housing mix. The current government has rightly pointed out that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and that treating development in communities such as Brantford, Hamilton and Waterloo in a manner similar to Toronto makes no sense. Other proposed changes include giving municipalities some flexibility to develop housing on lands that have previously been designated as employment areas and on small pieces of land that are currently outside their settlement area boundaries, and continuing to encourage density around major transit station areas. If adopted, these changes will give more flexibility to municipalities and will encourage the right types of homes to be built and the right density based on the infrastructure available.

These proposed changes are all about one thing: Providing homes for hardworking individuals and families across a growing region. Our current generational housing challenge has been 14 years in the making, and through these actions the provincial government is making good on its promise of working to increase housing supply in our region while continuing to protect the environment.

DAVE WILKES is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). bild.ca

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