New policies needed for residential construction to remain a healthy driver of the economy

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By Sue Wastell, President, CHBA

Early this past summer, CHBA released the latest Economic Impacts of the Residential Construction Industry factsheets. Produced for the national, provincial and municipal levels and using the latest data from Statistics Canada, the factsheets are used for government advocacy by all three levels of our association, as they use their collective voices to speak for us and advocate for a robust housing environment – for the success of our businesses and for Canadians.

In 2022, there were a total of 1.52 million on-site and off-site jobs created in new home construction, renovation and repair – which makes the sector one of Canada’s largest employers. Nearly two-thirds of the total number of jobs were concentrated in renovation and repair, while more than a third can be attributed to new home construction. Our work resulted in $107.2 billion in wages that show up in other consumer spending across the entire economy and help increase economic activity. Our industry is the largest single wealth-builder for most families, and provides for $211.3 billion in economic investment.

Outlook more challenging

Many of us are still working on business brought in through our pipelines during the pandemic years’ boom. But with rising interest rates and prices for materials and labour still up, the outlook for many of our businesses is looking much more challenging. In June, I travelled to Ottawa where I – along with others on the CHBA leadership team – met with the Governor of the Bank of Canada. We explained the challenges that rising interest rates are having on our industry, pulling in data from CHBA’s Housing Market Index (HMI) and personal examples to show the connection among higher interest rates, affordability, housing supply and a more challenging environment in which we’re now trying to build. While their objective is to get inflation under control, it means that other government policies need to be altered in favour of new construction and improved affordability if we’re to address the housing supply shortage and increase starts.

In June, I attended the St. Thomas and Elgin HBA Trades Appreciation BBQ, where I got to speak with members who are integral to homebuilding, renovating and repair. We need more skilled tradespeople in our industry, and more support for the ones already working to make it their career, and CHBA has been hard at work on many fronts in this respect. Among other federal announcements just prior to the STEHBA event was the announcement of the creation of category-based selections within the Express Entry system to help address labour shortages in our industry, which is a big win for the association and its members.

Housing supply barriers

I also attended the OHBA Southwestern Ontario Housing Summit, where many of you told me of the barriers you’re facing to getting more housing supply online. Let’s hope that the federal government’s $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), the design of which CHBA informed, will succeed in incenting and supporting municipalities in taking measurable steps to increase the number of homes that get built. The association – nationally, provincially and locally – is pushing for municipalities to take advantage of the fund in ways that will contribute to more market-rate housing supply and help address affordability issues across Canada. As part of those efforts, CHBA spearheaded and coordinated a municipal supply campaign with many of our local/provincial associations across Canada. If there is good uptake on the HAF, it should mean many cities see development approval times sped up, outdated zoning rules amended, efforts made to tackle NIMBYism and more.

This fall promises to be a busy one with association business and more travel. It’s wonderful to see so many of you back out at your local events – there’s nothing quite like getting together in person to build a supportive and knowledgeable community of industry peers, and the on-the-ground experiences that you pass along to me and everyone working for you in the association are invaluable. So, keep up the good work, and keep encouraging more in the industry to join your local association to help strengthen our collective voice at all three levels of government.