By Sue Wastell, CHBA President
It’s been a busy fall.
I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to travel coast-to-coast from Newfoundland to Regina to Whistler to hear from members across the country.
In September, I travelled to Kamloops to attend CHBA Central Interior (CHBA-CI)’s AGM. I had the opportunity to tour CHBA-CI’s Training House and meet with Thompson Rivers University trades students working on the project. As our industry faces chronic labour shortages now and into the future, encouraging careers in residential construction is a key priority of the association – it was great to witness first-hand the work CHBA-CI is doing to get young people into the trades.
Later, I attended BILD Alberta’s Conference, Ontario HBA’s AGM, Regina and Region HBA’s AGM, and Manitoba HBA’s Annual Housing Forum. At these large provincial gatherings, I shared the state of our industry from a national perspective and delved into our association’s key policy asks on national model codes that the provinces are moving to harmonize, and which CHBA is working on in consultation with provincial HBAs. These important codes-related discussions were continued during CHBA’s National Committee and Council meetings in Ottawa, where provincial representatives from across the country discussed proposed changes for alterations to existing buildings, prescriptive methods for energy tiers, greenhouse gas emissions, airtightness, accessibility and more. Codes have an immense impact on our businesses, and there’s a deluge of very technical work going on at the national level of CHBA, in collaboration with provincial HBAs, to get codes harmonization right. CHBA maintains that changes in codes must not exacerbate affordability challenges as they continue to evolve to address climate change and other issues.
I also visited eight local HBAs across Canada, including some smaller regions. I visited with members of Lanark Leeds HBA, Haldimand and Norfolk HBA, Brantford HBA, Greater Dufferin HBA, and CHBA Sea to Sky, listening to how your challenges differ from those working in urban areas and shared how new federal policies – which came to fruition through extensive association advocacy – will benefit members in smaller communities. These policies include the removal of GST on purpose-built rental, which smaller municipalities are also in desperate need of, and the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) stream specifically dedicated to small communities with less than 10,000 people.
While members have specific needs in different regions, the overarching message I received during our productive conversations was the same: Removing the barriers to getting more housing supply built – to help restore affordability – must be the number one priority on government agendas across the country. Thankfully, it seems to have received at least some of the traction it deserves, and that’s largely due to the work of the association at all levels.
Notably, there has been some good uptake of the HAF in the last few months, with funding announcements kicking off in my hometown of London, and further across the country from Halifax to Kelowna. And very importantly, the Minister getting municipalities to either improve their plans for supply, or else not receive funding. I look forward to more announcements in the coming months.
House of Commons Finance Committee
I always take my learnings from meetings with all of you back to Ottawa in October. CHBA was invited to address the House of Commons Finance Committee, and CHBA CEO Kevin Lee and I spoke about the key priorities for our industry to get housing affordability and supply back on track. We are seeing take-up on many of our recommendations and expect more to come.
I’m lucky to have met so many of you at your local events, and I look forward to meeting more of you as my presidency continues. The boots-on-the-ground experiences you share with me are invaluable for those working for you at national. As I always say, making use of the association’s meetings, conferences and other networking opportunities is a huge advantage of membership that gets you dialed in to the many ways the association is working on your behalf. Let’s encourage more members to get involved, so that we can strengthen our collective voice and secure more great policy wins for our industry.