Earlier this month, Toronto's former Deputy Mayor of Toronto Ana Bailão took to social media to announce her new post as Head of Affordable Housing and Public Affairs with Dream Unlimited. Bailão, a known affordable housing advocate who announced her resignation from public office in May, tells STOREYS that her role with Dream is “newly formed” and indicative of the company’s commitment to affordable housing.
In an exclusive Q&A, Bailão speaks to her career in public office and teases what she has in store for her newly minted private sector role.
Can you offer any insights into your departure from public office and the publicsector?
For me, politics has always been a way to drive change. As a city councillor, chair of the City’s Planning and Housing Committee, and deputy mayor, I was proud to use these platforms to advocate for more affordable housing and economic and social prosperity for everyone.
Growing up as a young immigrant new to Canada, I quickly realized how safe and stable housing is the foundation upon which much success in life is based. It allows someone to work, get an education, engage with their community, and ultimately develop and fulfill their fullest personal potential. That is why I got involved in politics and why I’m so proud of all the progress we made during my time in public service.
Cities are extremely complex, dynamic, and ever-evolving places and I believe we can all have an impact on making them better places to live and work. Whether inside or outside government, I remain absolutely committed to building better communities.
What prompted you to accept your new role with Dream Unlimited?
Dream is an asset manager and fully integrated real estate development company committed to building inclusive and sustainable communities. They are dedicated to creating more affordable housing along with the delivery of some of the most transformative projects across the country. This factored largely into my decision-making process. Affordable housing is a commitment from which I will never waver whether in the public or private sector.
How has the transition been for you thus far, moving from the public to the private sector?
So far, the transition has been smooth and interesting. I am watching out for the “political withdrawal” that some of my former colleagues warned me about -- but so far so good. I have enjoyed learning about all the exciting projects Dream has across the country and working with their exceptional team.
Are you able to speak to the types of projects you intend to pursue in your new role?
These are early days with Dream. But I can tell you that I am joining a team that is extremely innovative and committed to exploring new partnerships and ways to deliver affordable housing. This is extremely exciting.
The Dream LeBreton Flat project in Ottawa, in partnership with Multifaith Housing, a non-profit that will almost double the number of units that they will own and operate once the project is completed, is a great example. Deeper affordability, affordable housing ownership and programming delivered by both the private and non-profit sectors, and the strengthening of our non-profit sector and scale were all achieved at the project.
How do you intend to work with the public sector, including government entities and non-profits, in delivering affordable housing?
One thing I have always maintained, and recognize even more now, is that strong partnerships are crucial to the delivery of affordable housing. The more we bring governments and the private and non-private sectors together, the more affordable housing we can deliver along the housing continuum. This also creates greater opportunity for scale, which is what we desperately need in the sector.
What are your thoughts on the ideal relationship between private sector entities andaffordable housing development?
The economic and social impacts of the housing crisis our country is facing are significant and it affects every community from coast to coast to coast. Ideally, as a smart business practice, every developer should be working on delivering affordable housing.
These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.