After a 15-year run as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) Joe Vaccaro is embarking on new forward-thinking ventures.
But his commitment to bringing housing supply to Ontario residents (one million homes, to be exact) remains as strong as ever.
While the specific details of his new career path are currently under wraps, Vaccaro will assume a founding leadership role in private industry. In the meantime, he’ll maintain his change-making role as OHBA CEO until October 4, 2021.
The Ontario-wide organization represents professionals within the new home and renovation industry and is comprised of 4,000 member companies that are organized into 29 local institutions. Its mandate involves a focus on improving new housing supply, choice, and options for the province’s homebuilders and renovation consumers through impacting provincial legislation, regulation, and policy.
A celebrated and trusted voice in the residential construction industry, Vaccaro was named CEO of OHBA in 2013. Prior to that, he served as the organization’s Chief Operating Officer after making moves as the VP of Policy and Government Relations at the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).
While earning a degree in political science and philosophy, Vaccaro spent his summers in the family residential construction business, working alongside his father framing new homes across the GTA. He’s watched the construction industry innovate and adapt ever since, and has become a vocal advocate for housing for Canadians in the process.
In his role as CEO, Vaccaro has been front and centre of game-changing ideas and campaigns that have left a lasting impact. He points to the OHBA’s “Home Believer” campaign -- which launched in 2018 -- as one of his proudest achievements during his time at the organization.
“Before the last provincial election, we launched the ‘Home Believer’ campaign to create a great platform for the members across Ontario to engage with politicians in a way that kept it really simple; it was a values-based proposition,” says Vaccaro. “It essentially asked, ‘are you a home believer?’ and ‘do you believe in the great Canadian dream of home ownership?’”
The campaign offered a platform to engage with politicians not about policy necessarily, but about that core (increasingly unattainable) dream of homeownership. “It inspired a conversation about people who need that housing and how that helps them in their life decisions and goals,” says Vaccaro. “A career highlight was taking that platform into the provincial election, then coming back in June and seeing a provincial government elected where half of their members were home believers, committed to the dream and to bringing more housing supply and choice into the marketplace.”
The campaign united people not just in the association, but across industries. “Non-traditional consumers participated in the basic idea that the great Canadian dream needed to be supported and the government needed to take action,” says Vaccaro.
The impactful campaign still has legs. “I am leaving the association and that’s still their platform,” says Vaccaro. “We’ve moved it into a policy conversation about how we need a million homes. That’s the reality.”
Clearly, Vaccaro not only left a mark on the industry, but on his coworkers as well.
“Joe, words cannot express our gratitude and your enduring legacy will remain with all of us. This is one of those bittersweet moments,” wrote, in part, OHBA President Bob Schickedanz in an email to members and stakeholders. “Nevertheless, we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.”
The feeling is mutual. "My admiration and my respect for all of the Presidents, Chairs, Board members and volunteers cannot be fully expressed," wrote Vaccaro in his resignation letter.
While he remains tight-lipped about his next move, Vaccaro says that it will see him take his problem-solving skillset and move it into an environment where he has the business tools to support the industry and solve problems.
“At this point of my career, I see a landscape where we have housing as a top-of-mind issue in the federal election, a provincial government that’s focused on more housing supply and choice, and municipal government trying to figure out how to bring more housing into their communities," says Vaccaro.
“This is a much different environment than it was fifteen years ago, so now is a good time to move into another phase in my career. I see a growing need for innovation within the industry, a growing need for innovation within housing in general, and a growing innovation cluster forming in the GTA around housing issues. I see it as an opportunity to join that space.”
Recognizing that Ontario is attracting top talent from around the world, Vaccaro says there is opportunity for innovation to build these million homes. And the time to act is now.
“So, the question becomes, what are we doing to create innovation in the sector from an industry systems perspective?” says Vaccaro. “What are we bringing to the GTA cluster that goes beyond traditional sticks and bricks and beyond net worth platforms? I see real opportunity to keep building but doing so with innovation front and centre in a way that will benefit both consumers and government.”
Consider us intrigued.