CHBA’s Day on the Hill and Sector Transition Strategy

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CHBA’s well attended Day on the Hill evening reception welcomed MPs, Senators, and staff of policymakers.

By Nicole Storeshaw, Director of Government Relations, CHBA

CHBA has made a big splash on Parliament Hill and beyond with its federal advocacy work in the first few months of 2024. The year kicked off with CHBA’s Day on the Hill, an annual event where member leaders and HBA staff from across the country meet with Members of Parliament and government officials in Ottawa. A successful evening reception garnered still more officials, including representatives from the Prime Minister’s office. Momentum from the event was further extended by CHBA’s release of its Sector Transition Strategy two days later in a press conference on Parliament Hill. The release was received with much interest from government and the media, particularly our recommendation to introduce 30-year amortization periods for insured mortgages on new construction homes. It was a good push heading into Federal Budget season, and – looking farther down the road – gearing up for what will likely be a federal election in the fall of 2025.

Peter Fragiskatos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities addressed the crowd during CHBA’s reception on Feb. 7 at the Chateau Laurier.

Successful Day on the Hill

On Feb. 6, members and HBA staff participated in discussions on housing supply and affordability during 62 meetings with Ministers, MPs and other senior officials throughout Ottawa’s Parliamentary Precinct. Housing is a top issue for Canadians right now, and with a federal election looming, this was the busiest Day on the Hill that CHBA members have had in years. The event is an important facet of extensive year-round consultations and meetings that CHBA has with Ministers, MPs and the public service. Being able to meet members in person makes the issues our industry faces more real for policymakers, and strengthens CHBA’s relationship with key government officials. It also reinforces the coast-to-coast presence of the Association, further supporting our local and provincial HBAs.

To secure and conduct successful meetings, preparation is key. CHBA has earned a very positive reputation on Parliament Hill by having delegates that are well informed and organized. To prepare delegates, CHBA hosts a mandatory briefing day for all members and HBA staff who participate in the event.

Katie Telford, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Chief of Staff (centre) speaks with CHBA CEO Kevin Lee (right) and CHBA President Sue Wastell (left).

Armed with a binder full of background materials and easy-to-grab information, delegates are briefed on the current political landscape and delve into CHBA’s federal policy recommendations, which are printed out in a policy infoguide called Unlocking the Door to Homeownership: Recommendations on the Federal Role. Delegates are given best practices and strategic approaches for the meetings, including how to narrow in and focus on key asks during their meetings with MPs. They then break into their assigned groups and plan how they’ll approach their meetings, practicing delivery, finding connections, and how to counter any resistance to CHBA’s asks.
With housing continuing to be a hot topic, the challenge once again this year was not about trying to impress the importance of finding solutions for housing affordability and supply (its importance is already well recognized by policymakers and the public, thanks to the federal government stating in its 2022 budget that Canada needs to double housing starts and build 5.8 million homes in the next decade to make up its housing deficit), but rather in presenting granular solutions needed to bring about meaningful change.

It’s been two years since that announcement of the housing deficit in the federal budget, and Canada is nowhere near on track, thanks to slowing housing starts. The higher interest rate environment, coupled with tight mortgage rules that haven’t budged despite record low mortgage arrears rates and falling homeownership rates, means that sales are slowing across much of the country. And as members explained to MPs during their meetings, if Canadians aren’t buying homes, builders can’t build them. Further, if economic conditions are uncertain, homeowners won’t be investing in renovations, including energy retrofits, which are needed to reach the country’s emissions targets.

Delegates participating in the Day on the Hill receiving a briefing on the current political landscape to help inform their interactions with MPs.

CHBA’s policy recommendations focus on addressing the policy and financial system barriers currently in place, which need to be resolved first, at which point labour and productivity solutions will be needed.

1. Continue federal leadership, but with a holistic approach by ensuring the government’s own economic policies don’t run counter to efforts to increase housing supply.

2. Remove barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers, including lowering interest rates as soon as possible, introducing 30-year amortization periods for insured mortgages on new construction homes, avoiding more mortgage rule tightening, increasing the home price upper limit for insured mortgages in more expensive markets to $1.25 million, and introducing a renovation tax credit for first-time home buyers.

3. Lower government-imposed costs that add to affordability challenges, such as increasing the GST/HST New Housing Rebate thresholds, supporting more purpose-built rentals, and assisting municipalities in lowering their government-imposed costs.

4. Remove barriers within the homebuilding process through the continued roll-out of the Housing Accelerator Fund, and fix unnecessary federal red tape on the Underused Housing Tax, new forced labour in supply chains reporting requirements, and new trust reporting requirements.

5. Avoid adding costs through codes and regulations, ensuring affordability is a core code objective and that we prioritize innovation before regulation. In tandem, invest in innovation and R&D for lower- or neutral-cost solutions, and recognize that to address climate change in the sector, it’s critical to retrofit existing housing. To do so, the EnerGuide Rating System (ERS) label should be required on all houses at the time of resale, and the ERS should be expanded and promoted so that it becomes the backbone of all renovation incentives.

6. Address labour shortages by updating the immigration system and Temporary Foreign Worker Program to proactively attract skilled workers, specifically by targeting those needed for residential constructions, and investing in employer-based concierge to help employers ramp up labour capacity. Also, encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades and supporting the apprenticeship system.

7. Support increased productivity by prioritizing and supporting investment in modular and other factory-built technologies and supporting CHBA efforts for its sector transition strategy.

To continue the conversations had during the day and connect with more key policymakers, CHBA hosted a reception in the evening at the Chateau Laurier, which was well attended by MPs who weren’t able to make it during the day, and included other notables who popped by, including Katie Telford, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Chief of Staff, who engaged in focused dialogue with CHBA CEO Kevin Lee and President Sue Wastell.

At what turned out to be a very busy and very well attended reception, Peter Fragiskatos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities addressed the crowd, speaking about the importance of housing to our communities and the important work that builders, developers, renovators, and everyone in the industry does to provide homes to Canadians. He reiterated that the government recognizes the need for more housing, and that there is a lot that can still be done.

Groups strategizing together how they’ll approach each meeting.

Sector Transition Strategy

CHBA’s momentum from the Day on the Hill began a week leading up to the event with a targeted digital communications campaign (see page 16), and continued afterwards with the release of CHBA’s Sector Transition Strategy, which CHBA’s policy infoguide points to for further recommendations. The Strategy, which was formally released during a press conference on Feb. 8 on Parliament Hill, builds on CHBA’s federal recommendations, with a focus on productivity. Since its development in the fall, CHBA has been meeting regularly with government officials about the Strategy, where it garnered much interest. Following its release, the media homed in on CHBA’s recommendation to introduce 30-year amortizations for new construction.

While the Strategy includes recommended actions needed to create the financial and policy conditions so that homeownership rates bounce back and our industry can build more supply, ultimately the strategy is about the support needed to increase productivity in the industry through a move to more factory-built construction.

It includes the barriers to factory-built construction that will require support to overcome, as well as the many benefits that such a shift in homebuilding methods could provide, including: Faster construction with fewer delays, year-round work with limited weather issues, more energy efficient and less waste, increased output with less labour, and easier to get labour (fewer barriers to entry, appealing conditions, and it’s good for immigration – including temporary foreign workers). The Strategy says that the country needs a made-in-Canada plan for housing supply, and outlines how support for more factory-built homes can get us there. You can read the full document and watch the press release at chba.ca/sectortransition.

Next steps

CHBA’s advocacy continues as we approach the federal budget and a federal election not too far on the horizon. Following Day on the Hill, CHBA followed up with the MPs and government officials that members met, thank them for the meetings and providing additional information or answering questions they had during the meetings. As always, CHBA continues to dialogue with relevant policymakers throughout the year on our policy recommendations, including CHBA’s Sector Transition Strategy. Our media outreach on these important topics will continue as well, to ensure that Canada’s housing issues remain front and centre with media and government, as we push for the changes needed to keep our industry strong, and ensure Canadians have access to the homes they need.

Members who are interested in keeping current with housing and CHBA action and policy recommendations are encouraged to sign up to receive CHBA’s Industry Highlights, a media scan on housing issues and developments with CHBA commentary, published Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.