Building the Homes We Need Requires Embracing Change
Every great achievement begins with a goal, and our industry has a monumental one: to build 1.5M homes in Ontario in the next decade. This is the number of new homes that Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force identified last year as necessary to address our housing supply shortage and bring back affordability and balance. Meeting this goal will require our industry and decision-makers to embrace change in four areas — people, productivity, processes and policy — this year and in the decade to come.
To build 1.5M new homes in 10 years, we need to increase the number of annual housing starts in Ontario by 50% over the highest number we have been able to achieve since 1987 — approximately 100,000 in 2021 — and maintain that level for 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of workers are required for the task, not only skilled trades but also managers, planners, architects, designers, lawyers, and other professions.
Like all other sectors, the building industry is facing the urgent challenge of attracting and retaining workers as boomers retire. We need to cultivate all pipelines of talent, including those who may not traditionally have considered careers in construction and development. The federal government can help by ensuring that some of the nearly 500,000 new immigrants to arrive in Canada annually are in the skilled trades.
However, simply replacing the existing workforce will not be enough to meet the ambitious target of building 1.5M new homes in 10 years. We need to embrace new technologies, new methods and automation to increase the productivity of each worker in our sector.
Building housing and offices involves many interrelated processes across multiple jurisdictions, regulatory bodies and authorities. The provincial government has brought in legislation to help streamline many of the processes that have been delaying the approval and building of new homes, particularly at the municipal level. Even as the effects of these process enhancements begin to be felt, we must remain proactive. Continually seeking innovations and efficiencies in all processes will help us speed up getting shovels in the ground.
Finally, sound housing policy is essential to addressing our housing supply and affordability crisis. All stakeholders must work with municipalities on implementing the new policies put in place by the province, and we must collectively assess and not be afraid to call for changes or new policy where required.
As 2023 begins, our industry is looking forward to the challenge ahead of us: building the housing and work spaces future residents of the GTA will need. We invite policy makers at all levels of government to join us in embracing the change necessary for this great achievement.