Collaboration and co-operation are needed to end housing crisis: RESCON

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By Richard Lyall

Special to Ontario Construction News

Canada is facing an unprecedented and generational housing affordability and supply crisis. In areas like the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the word “crisis” in fact seems not strong enough to identify how this situation is impacting all of us.

Indeed, governments, the residential construction sector and a wide array of stakeholders are having to work to find solutions under jarring pressures. But, more importantly, individuals and families are facing impacts upon their finances, their hopes and dreams and their quality of life.

We are all familiar with the statistics, so I need not repeat a litany of them here. However, by way of example a report has just identified that in the City of Toronto rents have increased for a two-bedroom unit by 24 per cent in one year. That means if you’re entering the rental market in the city you can expect to pay at least $3,300 or more per month just to put a roof over your head.

We applaud the fact that most political leaders now accept that we are actually in a housing crisis. This wasn’t always the case. We also thank governments, particularly the province, for taking action to address this crisis.

However, if we are to identify and implement meaningful and sustainable solutions to our housing crisis then we need a level of collaboration, co-operation and joint action that we have rarely witnessed before either across our province or nationally.

This past summer, RESCON initiated a process of broad-based consultations with an array of individuals, non-profit housing providers, private builders and other stakeholders. The objective was to engage with as many partners in the housing sector as possible so that we could help to create a coalition of sorts that could work collaboratively to assist in moving forward enduring and implementable solutions.

I was grateful to meet with outstanding leaders in the housing sector, including Ene Underwood of Habitat for Humanity GTA, who as well as leading one of the most successful affordable housing providers in the country is also an outstanding leader in the sector and a champion of efforts to help address the broader housing crisis.

I also welcomed the opportunity to connect with Andrea Adams, executive director of St. Clare’s Multi-Faith Housing in Toronto. She is at the forefront of innovative and workable solutions for the housing needs of some our most vulnerable residents.

We also met with builders of purpose-built rental projects and discussed with them and other builders the challenges they face in a very difficult market environment. After all, if the housing we need is to be delivered it is builders who will have to construct it.

Through conversations with planning lawyers, we heard of the unnecessary impediments to residential housing construction which are outdated, unresponsive and frankly counter-productive. The regulatory processes and development application protocols are denying many people the opportunity to afford the housing they deserve.

We also welcomed the opportunity to meet with a number of so-called “millennial groups.” And trust me, they get it. They know what the issues are and they’re vocal about what needs to be done. If any group has provided encouragement about the future, it is these very active and dedicated individuals.  So, this outreach by RESCON has touched every group within the sector, from non-profits to private builders, legal experts, housing activists, financial leaders to those experienced in public service.

Our outreach resulted in the preparation and release of our Housing Ontario’s People Everywhere (HOPE) strategy that identified five action steps each level of government could take to begin working towards solutions to the housing crisis.

But more than anything, our broad-based and extensive outreach showed that all these stakeholders are willing to work together, know what the challenges are, have identified common solutions and see collaboration as integral.

In the coming months, we will continue our engagement with these dedicated people and organizations for we recognize, as they do, that it will take a co-ordinated team effort to solve the housing affordability and supply crisis.

At its core, this is not about numbers, financial considerations or housing models. It is about people – people who deserve an affordable, secure and stable place to call home.

Richard Lyall is president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).

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