Tag Archives: Gary Switzer

The Power Seat – building industry CEOs call for government change

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The Power Seat – building industry CEOs call for government change

The Power Seat is a new feature series in which we put one pointed question to a select, specific audience.

We asked CEO level executives among the homebuilding community:

“You have been invited to a meeting with representatives of municipal, provincial and federal governments, and it’s your turn to speak. What do you say to them?”

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This year is one of continual growth, which presents the opportunity to respond to the current and future challenges Ontarians face. All levels of government project an increase in Ontario’s population of 2.6 million #homebelievers by 2031. Change is where need meets opportunity.
We need more housing supply and choice across Ontario, and that means housing can be a cornerstone solution to climate change, the employment skills gap and the economy. Instead of viewing growth as a problem, let’s view it as the change opportunity for the type of future, communities and neighbourhoods that Ontarians want to call home.

Joe Vaccaro
CEO, Ontario Home Builders’ Association

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All three levels of government need to work collaboratively, rather than in silos, and with one agenda, rather than competing ones. With a housing affordability and supply problem impacting the GTA, we need solutions-oriented collaboration.
We need to make it simpler to bring new homes to market by streamlining the process, faster to build new homes by reducing approval times, and fairer by making sure fees and taxes are equitable

Dave Wilkes
President and CEO, BILD

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Help us do our job to create new housing. We have a shortage of housing because of the lack of supply. Don’t look at new housing as a golden goose that you can keep laying on more and more municipal charges. Right now, about 24 per cent of the cost of all new housing is going to some level of government in the form of taxes, levies, charges and fees.

Gary Switzer
Chief Executive Officer MOD Developments, Toronto

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The three levels of government, as well as builders and developers, may all have different constituencies, but our objectives are remarkably similar.

Affordable housing works for all of us. Good planning works for all of us. Good design works for all of us. Building Green buildings works for all of us. Governments working together with developers works for all of us and can help facilitate all of this.

At The Rose Corporation, we accomplished exactly this, working with York Region, the Town of Newmarket and the federal government (CMHC). Together, we are now building a sustainable, complete and better overall community for having worked in close consultation with each other.

Daniel Berholz
President, The Rose Corporation

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The largest issue surrounds climate change, GHG emissions and resilience in new housing. Over the next decade, these may be some of the biggest changes our industry will face. Our building code is about to be changed to begin steering the industry towards net-zero homes.

Government needs to support the R&D side of the construction industry so that new and better products can be developed. Net-zero homes are achievable. There are a number of builders that have already constructed a discovery home and are looking at the ability to market this in a production capacity. Although from a technical perspective this is achievable, it will come at a significant cost. Net-zero homes will not be cheap.

The bigger question, then, is, will such initiatives be affordable? This is what governments will have to balance. When they regulate such a high minimum standard, our industry will be forced to meet the requirements. This is where R&D pays back. We need materials and products that are approved and available at the best price points possible to adopt into our building program.

Government should keep a close eye on the timing for mandating high standards of construction, and be mindful that affordability must be a top priority in the implementation.

Johnathan Schickedanz
General Manager, FarSight Homes, President, Durham Region Home Builders’ Association

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Housing affordability is one of the most important issues facing Canadians today. TREB remains diligent, along with other real estate boards and associations across Canada, in urging all levels of government to remove barriers and reduce the cost of homeownership.

With all levels of government in Canada, plus reputable international bodies acknowledging that we have a housing supply problem, and specifically the affordability pressures facing the GTA, it’s imperative for the growth of our city and region that we have flexible housing market policies that will help sustain balanced market conditions over the long term.

The time is now and policymakers need to translate their acknowledgment of supply issues into concrete solutions in 2020 to bring a greater array of ownership and rental housing online. As always, TREB will be there to help policymakers have the right impact on the market and Canadians.

John DiMichele
CEO, Toronto Real Estate Board

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The bottom line is this: Unless we can shorten the time it takes to bring developments through the approval process and to market faster, demand is going to continue to outstrip supply.

There have been some very positive enhancements the provincial government has put through to try and reduce these timeframes, by reducing red tape and other changes, and we’re grateful for that.

But in many cases the Province and the municipalities do not see eye to eye on how policies should be applied, and this constant fighting continuously thwarts the positive efforts and mires the process.

We have to work together – the politicians, building industry and public – to accept growth, have growth pay for growth, and not for unrelated municipal spending as well. We need to plan to have adequate supply of all types of housing, but especially what is missing in our urban areas today – the two- and three-bedroom midrise condos – the “missing middle.”

 cl_feb2020_the_power_seat_bob_finniganBob Finnigan
Principal and COO of Acquisition & Housing, Herity, Toronto

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It’s vital that all three levels of government work together to address the housing affordability issue by increasing the supply of housing to meet demands of growth in the GTA for decades to come.

Sustained infrastructure growth requires multi-level government support partnering with private enterprise to foster innovation in procurement and delivery and that the planning approval process is streamlined to avoid increased costs which impact housing affordability.

The cities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe need to actually adopt and implement provincial policies on development densities near transport nodes. Ultimately, the homeowners carry the burden of the increased costs from a lack of land supply, approval delays and development charge increases.

Niall Collins
President, Great Gulf Residential, Toronto

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Canadian economists and politicians have spent the better part of the last decade sighing with relief and sharing kudos for having skirted the U.S. housing crisis. Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadians are on a rollercoaster ride, as a result of government intervention and other factors. We’ve experienced record-high housing prices, record-low interest rates, economic downturns, and domestic speculators and foreign investors pushing people out of their homes because they can’t afford to live there anymore. We’ve seen housing inventory drop, and new development hindered by red tape and mounting development fees.

We need to keep up with housing demand to maintain sustainable housing values. It’s a complex issue with many moving parts.

To Mayor John Tory: Eliminate the municipal Land Transfer Tax, or at the very least, cap it. With Toronto’s ever-increasing property values, this tax is prohibitive in an already unaffordable market. The prospect of having to pay double LTT is deterring some move-up buyers from listing their homes, further straining the already low housing supply. How do you intend to stimulate housing market activity?

To Premier Doug Ford: Domestic and foreign immigration to Ontario is critical to a healthy economy, but as you work to continue attracting the biggest and best businesses to the province, where will you house the employees and their families? Housing supply is critically low, with developers stuck behind red tape and buried under development fees, preventing them from building the homes Ontarians so desperately need.

To Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Canada needs a National Housing Strategy that addresses inventory and affordability in our cities. Many Canadians, especially Millennials, new immigrants and those employed in the so-called “gig economy” feel homeownership is becoming less tangible by the day. While politicians of all stripes acknowledge the mounting urgency of affordable housing, few are offering any timely or compelling solutions. Focus on creating supply and affordability in a sustainable way, instead of continuing to support corrective measures that have constrained Canadians from participating in the economically beneficial practice of homeownership.

Christopher Alexander
Executive Vice-President and Regional Director, ReMax of Ontario- Atlantic Canada

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In conversation with Gary Switzer and Noorez Lalani of MOD Developments

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In conversation with Gary Switzer and Noorez Lalani of MOD Developments

They say teamwork makes the dreamwork, and at MOD Developments, the management team of Gary Switzer and Noorez Lalani provides as solid a one-two combination as anywhere in the development industry. Switzer, with a background as an architect, a city planner and developer, and Lalani, with a law degree and MBA, provide unique leadership and deliver some standout properties.

We spoke with Switzer and Lalani to explore their partnership, and what makes MOD what it is today.

Gary Switzer Chief Executive Officer, MOD Developments
Noorez Lalani President, MOD Developments

Condo Life: Let’s start with an easy one… What’s 2019 shaping up like for MOD Developments, and what’s your outlook for 2020?

Noorez Lalani: This year has been great for us. First, we’ve seen the occupancy and registration of Massey Tower, the culmination of seven years of hard work. Secondly, we completed the rezoning of our development at 55-63 Charles St. E. and successfully launched it as 55C Residences in the spring. Finally, Waterworks is well under construction and is looking great.

Twenty-twenty will be another busy year for us. 55C will start construction in the spring, and occupancies for Waterworks will begin in the fall. We’re also looking at a few new sites, which we will be able to discuss in a few months.

CL: Your projects in downtown Toronto all seem to be centred around key landmarks and signature locations, focusing on statement architecture as opposed to master-planned communities. Why this strategy?

Gary Switzer: While our projects have all been on unique sites downtown, this has been a combination of opportunity and our ability to see potential in sites that had been overlooked or perceived as too difficult (Massey is a case in point). Our strategy in acquiring sites has always been to find transit-oriented sites in the best locations. This does not preclude us from one day doing a master-planned community.

CL: Any interest in expanding elsewhere, say in Vaughan or elsewhere in the 905 where condo demand is also growing?

Lalani: Quite simply, yes. It would depend on the location and site itself.

CL: What signature MOD features exist in all your projects… say, key qualities or characteristics that speak to your mission and say, ‘Yes, this is clearly a MOD development’?

Switzer: Architectural excellence, attention to detail (both on the exterior and interior), livability in the suites and an urbane presence in the neighbourhood.

CL: What have you learned from previous or current projects that you’ve made note of for future projects?

Switzer: In the end, the focus has to be on the suites and the future homeowners. We’re in the business of building homes for real people. All design decisions revolve around that.

CL: How much is purpose-built rental a part of your business – currently and in the near future?

Lalani: We have co-developed two purpose-built rentals to date and are currently looking at another opportunity. We believe that a healthy housing market has to include purpose-built rental.

CL: What are the challenges and opportunities in the rental business?

Lalani: There are financial challenges in developing purpose-built rental in terms of equity requirements, which have made for-sale housing much more attractive to developers, to date. At the same time, the demand for new rental is so great, owing to immigration and high employment, and the development community has responded with more rental housing being built within the last few years than in the previous decade.

Artist’s rendering of tower at 55C Residences

CL: What’s next for MOD Developments?

Lalani: More and more great buildings!

And on a personal note…

You seem to have a unique partnership as CEO and president, with complementary skillsets. How does this benefit MOD Developments?

Lalani: Between my background as a lawyer, a banker and obtaining my MBA with a specialization in real estate finance and development, and Gary’s background as an architect, planner and developer, MOD has the total “in-house” package: Experience in design, urban planning and development combined with sound business acumen and financial knowledge.

Gary, your background as an architect, city planner and developer is unique in the industry. How does this experience show up in your projects – say, in building inclusions, amenities, locations?

Switzer: My experience has helped MOD develop a reputation for producing buildings of the highest quality in terms of design, construction and customer service. We’ve learned how to push the envelope with respect to entitlements and produce buildings that set new standards in terms of not just height, but also suite design and concepts in amenities.

What insights did your time as a city planner provide you, say, in terms of how the ‘system’ works or ways to do things better, now that you’re on the development side?

Switzer: It’s much more difficult to develop buildings today as opposed to when I was a planner. When I was at Great Gulf and we won the Ontario Association of Architects Award of Excellence for “The Morgan” in 2005, this was at a time when there were no development charges, no Section 37 charges, park levies were half of what they are today, and approvals in the King and Spadina neighbourhood could be done through the committee of adjustment. Today, routine approvals can take two years. When I worked as a planner in the 1980s, it was much easier for planners to fast-track good projects. Unfortunately, today, city staff is laden with an overly-complicated approvals system that puts as much stress on them as it does on the developer. Focus has to be on simplifying the current process and emphasize good design.

PORTFOLIO

55C Residences
55 Charles St. E., Toronto
Coming soon

57 Spadina (rental)
57 Spadina Ave., Toronto
Coming soon

The Massey Tower
197 Yonge St., Toronto
Under construction

The Selby (rental)
592 Sherbourne St., Toronto
Under construction

Waterworks
505 Richmond St. W., Toronto
Under construction

moddevelopments.com

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