2024 starts with rigorous advocacy on behalf of CHBA members

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Sue Wastell, CHBA President

After a break from travel over the holiday season, I’m back full steam ahead meeting with government officials and members from coast-to-coast.

My first stop of 2024 was in Ottawa for CHBA’s annual advocacy event, Day on the Hill. This year was one of the largest Day on the Hill events in recent times – and for good reason: Housing affordability and supply issues are top-of-the-list on the government agenda ahead of Budget 2024. CHBA secured more than 62 meetings with MPs and government officials, while several MPs and staffers attended CHBA’s Day on the Hill reception, including the Conservative Shadow Minister of Housing Scott Aitchison, and Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Katie Telford.

I was pleased to meet with MP Peter Fragiskatos, who also serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities. As the MP for my constituency in London, Ont., I’ve had the chance to meet with MP Fragiskatos regularly – he is keen to leverage every measure available to the federal government to help get more housing supply online faster. In doing this, he’s shown a particular interest in measures the government can take to help boost sector productivity, specifically through factory-built solutions.

As a result of our conversations during Day on the Hill and his interest to learn more about CHBA’s Sector Transition Strategy – which aims to support the industrialization of the sector through factory-built solutions (more on page 21) – MP Fragiskatos later accompanied me on a Western Canada tour of modular projects and factories from members in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Our first stop was in Saskatoon to meet with Big Block Construction, an accomplished modular builder in the region. Alex Miller, CEO of Big Block Construction and CHBA’s Second Vice-President, toured us through two of their recent modular projects, built in partnership with Métis communities. Miller also took us to several other finished modular communities, which included a walk-through of modules that had been craned into place while fully complete on the inside.

We then travelled to Lethbridge, Alta. to meet with Rick Weste, president and CEO of Triple M Housing. Triple M operates the largest modular homebuilding facility in Canada, producing up to 700 housing units per year. Factories such as Triple M’s require significant capital investment and consistent throughput to make the business case work. Weste illustrated this well to MP Fragiskatos, reiterating the need for government support to overcome barriers and facilitate a widespread move towards more factory-built homes.

Throughout both tours, the group engaged in productive dialogue and MP Fragiskatos left equipped with recommendations for how the federal government can help boost sector productivity and meaningfully increase housing supply.

Also following Day on the Hill, I had the opportunity to address Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland at a federal government roundtable with housing industry experts. We had a great discussion about how the government can unlock more housing supply through measures for well-qualified buyers, including 30-year amortization periods on insured mortgages for new construction homes. I look forward to more productive discussions with Minister Freeland and hope to see recommendations from our conversations included in Budget 2024.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to local HBAs across the country these past couple months. I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in dialogue at events with members of CHBA Newfoundland, Sarnia Lambton HBA, Greater Ottawa HBA, BILD Lethbridge, CHBA Central Okanagan, and Guelph and District HBA. Throughout my conversations with members at these local events, I’ve come to know that while every area has its unique housing challenges, many of our cross-country issues are the same – and they will be for years to come without collaboration with all levels of government.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with me, because it’s our collective voice that keeps our issues top-of-mind with government officials. In my last few weeks as CHBA President, I look forward to hearing more of your stories, so that I can take back to Ottawa as much as I can before passing the baton.