Can Ontario Really Build 1.5 Million More Homes?
The province says Ontario needs 1.5 million more homes by 2031, a third to address the current shortage and another million to accommodate growth. But development experts say it will be a challenge to achieve that goal even with all the changes outlined in Tuesday’s Build More Homes Better Act.
The construction industry says it faces a shortage of skilled trades and should widely adopt construction innovations that are becoming more common in other jurisdictions. Like consumers, it has also been hard hit by rising borrowing costs that are eating away at the viability of some projects.
Even the government has acknowledged that its housing targets are ambitious despite its proposed accelerated approval times and building incentives of capped and frozen development charges that have cities fearing a loss of revenue.
Ontario needs to increase the flow of skilled immigrants to the province to boost last year’s housing starts record of nearly 100,000 homes, said Richard Lyall, president of the Home Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). .
He said the industry is already pressuring Ottawa to speed up the assessment of applications from construction workers who apply to come here. A September report by construction trade union organization BuildForce said Canadian industry will be short of 29,000 workers by 2027.
Lyall said the construction industry was already at its peak. Even though it is out of the park in terms of attracting workers, it still needs one thing.
“We need to go more modular. We need to go more paneled,” Lyall said, referring to prefab housing.
Panel construction is when walls and roofs are assembled at the job site. Modular construction means that a prefabricated structure is shipped and placed in place by a crane.
The United States and Sweden are using the technology to speed up construction, but Ontario needs more facilities to produce it, Lyall said.
The province isn’t too badly off when it comes to plumbers, electricians and sheet metal workers, he says.
“Where we had real pinch points were the mud crafts, which have everything to do with concrete.”
These jobs include masons, tile setters and forming carpenters.
It’s harder for immigration officials to assess those skills, and countries have different standards, Lyall said.
Even if the industry can meet the housing targets, some doubt that the financial incentives contained in the sweeping legislation will be enough to offset the current housing downturn. Will developers see projects as viable as demand has plummeted due to economic uncertainty and escalating borrowing costs?
The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), which represents home builders in the GTA, reported that the sale of pre-construction and newly built homes hit record highs last month.
But BILD CEO David Wilkes played down that concern and said it was imperative homes were built now so they would be available when demand resurfaces.
“There is no doubt that we are now in a pause in housing demand,” he said. « This sector goes through this in a variable and regular way. »
The provincial plan must be seen in the context of the next decade and beyond, Wilkes said. « Otherwise we’ll have the same conversation later, » he said.
Anything is possible when it comes to meeting the government’s housing targets, but it won’t be easy, Lyall said.
“There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place here and so far outside the province there has been a lot more talking than walking. I worry. We have a lot of immigrants coming in and where are they going to live? »
But, he said, « Sometimes when you really hit a wall, it pushes people into action. »
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