RESCON taking bold steps to address Ontario’s housing shortage

Winter housing construction stock photo

By Grant Cameron

Special to Ontario Construction News

They say the best way to stay happy is to be busy. The folks at RESCON (The Residential Construction Council of Ontario) must therefore be very happy people.

The past month, as is most often the case, was indeed a very active yet fulfilling time as some critical matters were dealt with to help spur housing, boost the number of foreign-trained construction workers allowed into Canada, prevent heritage designations from being abused, and improve the safety of tower cranes on construction sites.

There is still a long way to go, mind you, but some progress has been made all the same.

First up, was passage of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.

The legislation removes development charges for affordable and non-profit housing in hopes of spurring more residential construction. Fees are simply out of control which results in projects being shelved.

As we noted in a press release, development charges have risen by more than 600 per cent in the last 13 years in the GTA and, according to the province, presently add $116,900 to the cost of a new home.

The City of Toronto, meanwhile, has proposed a 46-per-cent hike over the next two years although it is sitting on a development charge reserve fund of more than $2.3 billion.

Obviously, this makes no sense.

As we all know, development charges are only part of the taxes, fees and levies which can add almost 30 per cent to the cost of building a new home, condo, rental unit or social housing. Worse, these fees hammer new renters and buyers – those who can least afford it the most.

We were also pleased to hear that Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton has worked out a new deal with the feds to give Ontario more control over economic immigration.

Such a deal is important because older workers in the residential construction sector are retiring in large numbers and we need individuals with specialized skill sets. Changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program will allow the province to bring in more workers with the skill sets we need. After all, you can’t build the houses without the workers.

Abuse of heritage designations, meanwhile, has been an ongoing problem. However, as RESCON president Richard Lyall noted in a column in Storeys, Bill 23 will help to cut down on the abuses and ensure only legitimate heritage properties are protected.

In many instances, far too many to list in this column, inappropriate use of the heritage listing and designation process has been used merely to prevent residential development and densification.

Under the new rules, only properties that are truly significant heritage properties will be protected. To be protected under the Heritage Act, properties will have to meet clearly defined criteria.

As we noted in a press release, RESCON and its industry partners have released a best practices guide for use by builders and trade contractors when erecting, operating and dismantling tower cranes.

Kudos to RESCON VP Andrew Pariser, James Wilkinson of Wilkinson Technical Services, the Ontario Formwork Association, and RESCON’s crane safety as well as health and safety committees for their critical roles in putting the guide together.

It covers everything from pre-erection inspections and reviews, initial erection on a project, safe operating practices, what inspections must be done and what documentation requirements are necessary.

It goes without saying that health and safety are RESCON’s top priorities and, as James Wilkinson notes, the safe operation of tower cranes requires the co-operation of everybody involved in a project.

With Ontario in such dire need of new housing, we are also drawing attention to the benefits of off-site construction. Lyall noted in a column in Canadian Real Estate Wealth that to construct 1.5 million homes in the next decade we must move to off-site construction as it reduces build time on a site.

Not only that, noise, dust and disruption on sites are reduced as there are fewer workers and less traffic. Panels and modules can also be built year-round in a climate-controlled setting with less waste.

Other countries are ahead of us when it comes to off-site construction. But we can learn from them and, if we can replicate what they are doing, we’ll be better off.

There is no single silver bullet to solve our present housing crisis, but it is refreshing to see some action being taken. We need as many irons in the fire as possible.

Grant Cameron is RESCON’s senior director of public affairs.


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