CityTalk: National Housing Accord – a strategy to end Canada’s rental housing crisis?

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. The need for a national blueprint.

According to Dr. Michael Brooks, chief executive at REALPAC, the work of the National Housing Accord began with the question, “What would a blueprint for housing reform in Canada look like?”

To address the rental housing shortage, a roundtable of fifteen private and non-profit housing sector experts gathered to chart a blueprint for systems reform. They focused on enabling all types of supply to house a growing population and restore rental housing affordability—market-rate, affordable, co-operative, non-profit, supportive, and otherwise.

See the The National Housing Accord: A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis for more details on this promising blueprint for an industrial housing strategy.

2. First and foremost, homelessness is a housing system-level problem.

Tim Richter, founder of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, states, “homelessness is the product of high rental costs and low availability,” and not mental illness or addiction as commonly believed. He calls for the need to think about housing as a complex system. When the market segment of the rental spectrum fails to provide secure housing, the burden is left to non-market housing with displacement pressures on those in the most precarious housing situations.

With vastly over 250,000 Canadians expected to experience homelessness this year, Tim says he doesn’t have the luxury of being ideological and will work with anyone willing to help move the housing system in the right direction. Dr. Michael Brooks says, “if I can help solve the homelessness and affordable housing problem, then the market housing problem will solve itself.”

3. Addressing six bottlenecks.

The roundtable identifies six bottlenecks to building more housing: a lack of coordination, a shortage of inputs from labour to materials, high costs, low productivity, inability to get timely approvals, and the insufficient construction of non-market housing.

Dr. Mike Moffat, Senior Director of Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute, states that any purpose-built rental supply side solution must address these six bottlenecks. See the Accord for eight recommendations that propose how to overcome each obstacle, and two recommendations that call for the creation and reformation of funding programs to prevent the displacement of those at risk of homelessness.

4. A broad-tent approach.

Dr. Carolyn Whitzman, a housing and social policy consultant, frames the current housing crisis as an ongoing thirty to fiftyyear supply deficitthe consequences of decades-old political choices around non-market housing. Since political alignment between all three levels of government is rare, she calls for a broadtent approach based on simple principles, using a universal language associated with targets that can be led by the federal government and picked up by provinces and municipalities. For Carolyn, the Accord is the start of that consensus-based process that can have political viability, persisting beyond the tenure of any single political administration. 

5. Solutions are available through inter-departmental coordination.

Mike points out that the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation can’t solve housing affordability on its own, despite housing now being under Infrastructure, because they are limited by their specific policy levers. He calls for an-all-of government approach which requires leadership from the centre. “If we look at what needs to happen, or even the points in the Accord, it actually stretches over about eight or nine different ministries.” Mike describes an interlinked set of federal departmental interests that could be aligned in a national industrial strategy to end the rental housing crisis.

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software.  Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary W. Rowe [00:01:26] Hi, everybody. Boy, I hated to disrupt that beautiful Chopin. And thank you for making that the opening music this morning or this afternoon, wherever you are. We appreciate you’ve come to join us for CityTalk. These are our regular conversations where we talk about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next for Canada’s cities. Very, very pleased to have quite a large constituency, obviously very interested in the topic of housing, housing, housing, which appears to be one of the most talked about topics in civic discourse in this country and not just here. But if you’re paying attention, you’re hearing about the housing collapse in China, you’re hearing about what’s going on in the United States. And these are all very important topics for us to be exploring together. And so I’m very appreciative that our colleagues have joined us who’ve just bravely released a report calling for a new housing accord. But before I introduce them, just to remind everybody that we’ve had quite an interesting summer across the country. I want to call it the Summer of Our Discontent. It feels like we’ve had all sorts of weather disturbances. We’ve had different kinds of incidences intensified by heat and by inflation and various economic pressures. And so we want to just acknowledge that there are people across the country that are coming to terms with a lot of struggle and difficulty. We particularly think of the communities in the West in British Columbia and our colleague Rebecca Alty, who has been doing a Herculean effort to try to move people out of Yellowknife and now back into Yellowknife. So what a summer it has been in the East … In Quebec, in northern Ontario, in northern Alberta, in the Territories and in British Columbia. So I hope we continue to learn, learn and learn. City building is not for the faint of heart. And we continue to come to terms with various challenges. We also, as all of us do, remind ourselves that we are on a number of ancestral territories from First Nations, Inuit and Métis. And I encourage you to put into the chat where you’re coming in from and which ancestral territory you’re part of. I, this summer have had an opportunity to get to know in a little bit more detail Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the Credit who we’ve had various discussions and meetings with on various topics and just reminding ourselves of the fundamental attachment that we have to land that actually was not ours and continues to not be, in many cases, not covered by a treaty or covered by a contested treaty. And what does reconciliation really need to look like for all of us engaged in an ongoing learning process around cities and city building and communities. So I want to acknowledge that off the top. Now, the other thing I’d like to do is, just indulge me for a second. Could you put into the chat, if you are participating today from your home or from your office? And I know a lot of you will say your home is your office, but you know what I mean. So are you coming in? I am in my office here. Where are you? Just office/home. Just curious. I know we can run polls. I don’t know how to do them on Zoom, and I didn’t ask my staff to do that, but I’m just curious who’s coming in from the office and who’s coming in from home. And similarly, are you anticipating this fall? Are you going to wear a mask or no mask? So when you’ve got a minute, just punch those words in Home- Office-Mask-No Mask. And this morning, we’re going to chat about this unbelievably complex problem, challenge of housing. No easy answers. And I appreciate that these three organizations collaborated to produce a report, involved a bunch of consultants and advisors, and so we’ve asked one of them to join us today. And I’m going to encourage us to have a really constructive conversation in the chat, not only about this report and the points that it’s making and the recommendations it’s offering, but also the general topics. And so those of you who have tuned into CityTalks over the last three years know that we have a very live, active chat community. If you’ve never signed up in a way that allows you to chat, I’d encourage you to enable your chat. You will learn a lot. You will see a lot of interesting comments from participants back and forth. It’s a really great resource and so we not only publish the recording, we also publish the chat so that everybody gets to benefit from what people raise. So I’d encourage you, if you haven’t participated in the chat, today’s the day and you will benefit from seeing what your colleagues say there. And I’m going to encourage us to be constructive and respectful, obviously, because this is not an easy topic, has lots of different perspectives and angles and different realities in different parts of the country. So the richer we can be in sharing our perspective, our knowledge, our experience, and the things that we’re challenged by, the more benefit we bring to the whole discourse. So I’m going to ask my colleagues, please, to turn the cameras on, because we have the authors of the report here to talk to us about the housing accord and their colleague Carolyn Whitzman, who was one of the contributors. And thank you for joining us in CityTalk and thanks for producing this report so that we can get a chance to really have a an active dialog and an active discussion about it. And so first, I’d like to go to Michael Brooks from the Real Property Association. We always put people’s bios in the chat so we don’t spend much time here relaying them. Michael’s in the UK today and I appreciate him taking time out of his, I’m assuming it was a holiday, to tune in before you fly back to Canada. Michael, start us off. Just let me understand why REALPAC got engaged in this and what you were trying to accomplish. And just a few sort of introductory comments from you about your perspective, what you learned through the process. Over to you. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Brooks [00:08:56] Well, thanks, Mary. Everybody hopefully can hear me okay. And it’s a pleasure to be on on City Talk with you and with the large number of constituents on this. I think we’re looking for a dialog. It’s my belief that outcome is always based on the quality of the process and the quality of the people in the process. And we had an opportunity, and I will give Tim all the credit. I’ve known Tim for several years and I’ll give Tim the credit for reaching out and saying, Mike, look, we got to get together, we’ve got to talk and we’ve got to come up with solutions that work for the entire spectrum of the housing supply from market all the way down to homelessness. As you know, in Canada, the prevailing way that we all like to work through housing is we start off in apartments and we kind of go to a bigger apartment and then maybe we go to a small home and then we move forward. So we kind of go up the property ladder, if I can put it that way, but. In this difficult time we have many folks going down the property ladder, and Tim will know that a lot of folks end up homeless. I’m actually in London, UK on business and been asking my colleagues from all around the world who are here with me, you know what’s it like in your country, what’s it like in your country? And you could talk about England, Spain, France, Germany, Australia, everybody’s in the same boat talking about this issue. So that was the genesis of this. Try to get 12 to 14 reasonable, open minded people in the same room, all of whom had understandings of the housing market, if not from their own perspective, from the broader perspective. And let’s just spend a day with the doors locked and try to figure out – What would a blueprint for housing reform in Canada look like? And I’m reminded now that I’m in England today, anyway, by Bob Geldof, who you’ll remember … There was a sign that Geldof put at the door to that recording session, and that sign was “Leave Your Ego At The Door”. And that with what everybody did in the session, which remarkably constructive. So four or five folks from the not for profit side, four or five folks from the private sector side, and that was my job to bring those folks in. And all of those folks, including me, had experience in either community housing or government owned social housing. So all of those folks had a sensitivity to the other side of the table. And that, I think, together with the openness of those folks in the not for profit world, really was a breakthrough. And I will give one more piece of credit after crediting Tim and thats to Dr. Moffatt, because we hired him as a moderator. But he really was a peer to all of us and a partner in the whole process. And Mike has been fantastic in cooking the meal that is the accord with 15 cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, I think we had ten drafts. So kudos to Mike for being able to bring us all together. And I’ve probably spoken for way too long.

Mary W. Rowe [00:12:40] No, that’s fine. Thanks, Michael. We’re going to you … by Michael, and Mike Moffatt by Mike. What’s interesting to me is what you suggested about how do you actually get to a place where you can have that kind of evenhanded exchange? Right? Because I can see just from our perspective, from CUI’s perspective, watching the discourse play out, that there’s a tendency, first of all, it gets political and and then it also gets … people want to blame somebody and they’ll start to sort of personify – well that sector are the bad guys, and … you know what I mean? And I find I find that this is one of the great challenges to solving challenges in cities is that we not demonize each other. But somehow you were able to create that safe space eh?

Michael Brooks [00:13:34] Yeah, I think so. I think the fact that we all recognize that we have to focus on supply. We’re under supplied. This is maybe Dr. Moffatt’s forte, but during the process, the immigration numbers that we were dealing with kept on going up. Okay, so there’s landed immigrants. But what about the students and temporary foreign workers? “What we got … There in the mix, too? Okay”. Uh, and I think that, uh, Dr. Moffatt will correct me. I think we’re up to close to 2 million people came in in 2022. I mean, it’s unbelievable how StatsCan didn’t arm us with this knowledge. So we’re overwhelmed on the demand side and we have to build supply to be fair to those … And they’ll be those, I’m sure, on the call who will criticize the private sector on the existing housing front, that’s another issue to follow. It’s on my agenda. But we were very focused on new supply of all types, not for profit, co-ops, everything. So we didn’t need to pick a villain. We just needed to all focus on getting the job done.

Mary W. Rowe [00:14:48] I’m sure that there are people in the crowd who are going to have their own views about the characterization of “do we need supply or don’t we need supply?” I think, and I’m anticipating people are already responding in the chat around that, I think the key thing is we need solutions. This we know. And, you know, regular folks get frustrated when advocates or people in the industry who are seen to have a financial interest in financial benefits. We all get frustrated with people suggesting that it’s this fault or that fault when really we just want to get the darn thing solved. So I guess that’s part of the recommendations in the accord is that there are a bunch of different measures to try to address a bunch of different challenges. I’m going to go next, if I could, to Tim Richter, who’s an advocate and whose focus … has been focused in his career on ending homelessness. That’s how you and I first got to know each other when I was in New York. And then, you then have taken on co-chairing the National Housing Council. So you’ve been close to the National Housing Strategy. So you are both advocate and policy adviser and somehow had a phone call with Michael Brooks to say, we better find a way to find some common cause. So tell me your perspective in terms of how this report in this process got going and how you’ve been able to feel that it represents people that you advocate on behalf of the organization?

Tim Richter [00:16:06] Yeah, I mean, so … I think a couple of things just to build on what Michael says. I think, you know, getting together with, you know, basically like cats and dogs getting along, it’s risky, right? It’s risky for everyone who’s kind of going into that room right? We’ve had, as you alluded to, you know, in the homelessness world, there are many bones we could have to pick with private landlords or others in the market. But the simple fact of the matter is, from my perspective, is that homelessness is the product of high rental costs and low availability, right? It’s not about mental illness, it’s not about addiction. It’s not about any of those things. Primarily. First and foremost, homelessness is a housing problem. The second thing, and this is kind of an awareness that I kind of always had in the back of my mind, but something that’s become much more apparent to me anyway, is that housing is a system and they’re all interconnected. Right. So you, you know, I really need to focus on the non-market housing system. But the fact is everybody in core housing need and those are at risk of homelessness are living in, most likely living in market rental apartments somewhere. Right. And if the market part of the rental universe doesn’t work, then the burden goes onto the non-market. If the market and the non-market don’t work or if the ownership market is somehow bummed up. Right. That puts pressure on the rental market. So housing is a system and I’m not going to solve homelessness just by focusing on non-market housing. We have to look at housing as a system and try and work with folks in that system. And the last thing I’ll say is just look at the scale of the problem, right? Mike Moffatt does a great job of outlining some of the barriers, right. The barriers to new housing development. So it’s not just about money and it’s not just about supply. There’s a lot of barriers there that are preventing this housing from being created. But just look at the scale. This problem began in the eighties. Canada … Most of Canada’s rental housing stock was built before 1980, right? The wheels came off of federal government investments, social housing in the nineties. This problem is 40 years in the making. It’s going to cost well over $1,000,000,000,000 to fix it. I guarantee you there’s no government that’s going to put $1,000,000,000,000 into housing. Therefore, we necessarily have to engage the private market and private capital to begin to fix what is a system, right, so that we can focus the public investment, in my view, focused public investment on the non-market components. Right? So again, it’s thinking about it as a system.

Mary W. Rowe [00:19:10] I wonder if the system framing allows us to drop some of our ideology around it, because I think that’s the dilemma that I experience, is that some people are wedded to a particular set of values that they see manifesting in whatever the dysfunction is of housing choice. Right? So if you’re saying, wait a sec, it’s a whole complex bunch of actors and systems and things that overlay. And we all know that Canadian jurisdictional responsibilities are rather complex. Does that help so that you get the biggest picture you possibly can and then see if you can focus on some key intervention points?

Tim Richter [00:19:54] Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think you’re, you know, you’re looking for leverage points in the system to create a different outcome. Right? So you need to create you need to, you know, get channel private capital to build a rental market that most people in low income households will live in, you know, to provide them that security. So the leverage point are those six barriers and the investment, Right. So you want to think about … And then anyway, I think I think that’s a big part of it. But, you know, right now over 260,000 Canadians are going to experience homelessness this year. That is a wild underestimate. Right? It’s likely much, much higher than that. It erases half of a person’s life expectancy. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have the luxury of an ideology. I’ve got a problem that I have to solve, like we have to fix this or people get hurt. So I will talk to who I need to talk to, to achieve that end. And, you know, working in homelessness, one of the things I learned from frontline workers is, you know, when you approach someone who’s experiencing homelessness, you have to suspend judgment, right? You have to take judgment out of the conversation, look at where we can come up with mutually agreeable outcomes and then take steps towards recovery. Right? It’s step by step. I’m not going to get to … Like we’re collectively not going to get to a perfect rental housing system in one jump. Right? But we are going to make … what this accord does, are steps in the right direction. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not going to fix everything. It’s not intended to fix everything, but it’s intended to create a road map.

Mary W. Rowe [00:21:40] Right. And maybe the roadmap, you know, that notion that if we’re … That you can have a journey that involves many paths and that people that want to focus on a particular segment of the market can focus on that. I’m speaking market – small end market there – and others can focus on other things. I hear you on this, though, that it’s as if we reached a pitch of crisis that made people say, okay, same with the pandemic, I always feel that during the pandemic we had to let a lot of this drop as well and just get down to how do you get those portable washrooms and in the parks. Right? Okay. Thanks, Tim. I want to now go to Dr. Moffett as he was being referred to a.k.a Mike, to talk specifically about this kind of a stew of collaboration that you tried to stitch together, Mike, and how that worked. And then I want you to speak a bit about the recommendations, and then I’m going to come to Carolyn, who was one of the advisors and who’s been in this field for some time, to get a sense of her critique. And then I’ll invite people from the chat to give us some questions and have some discussion back and forth. So over to you, Mike.

Mike Moffatt [00:22:45] Yeah, absolutely. And it was it was an interesting process to be sure that, you know, we basically locked 15 people into a room or so, and not let them out until they come up with some kind of agreement. And this, you know, it was a diverse group. I have to admit, I was I was pretty nervous walking in there that, you know, I’d have to, you know, act more, you know, break up some fights and things like that. But I was actually surprised how quickly we came together as a group and found that common ground. And one of the things that we did is try to really focus on like, what is the problem we’re trying to solve. And we used a framework that came out of some other work that we had done with the Ontario big city mayors, because if you think about it in some sense, it is kind of strange that we’re in this crisis, right? That … we know, for instance, and we can, you know, talk about how, you know, we should talk about housing as a system, different types of housing … But I know well that there are a lot of people who would like an energy efficient, affordable rental apartment in a walkable neighborhood. Why don’t we have that? You know that if there was a huge market demand for pens, you’d see Bic making a whole lot more pens. So why is this not happening? And, you know, we basically, you know, looked at all of the bottlenecks to producing the type of housing that people want in the communities in which they want to live. And we came up with six core problems that we need to address. And the six are as follows. The first is there’s just a massive coordination problem in a variety of different housing areas. So, you know, and we see this in a number of areas like this has come up recently with international students. Whose job is it to house international students? Whose job is it to even forecast how many students we’re going to have? It’s not clear. And we make all of … these are policy decisions in silos, both between governments but also within governments. So this is a big coordination problem. The second is ability. There might be stuff that we want to build, but we just can’t because we run into some physical bottleneck. Labor shortages are the obvious one, but we saw this during the pandemic. You know, supply chain issues, things like that. You know, there can be issues around availability of land, raw materials and so on. So that’s the second bottleneck. The third is what I call viability. Some of this stuff we just can’t, under the current set of policies, in the current economic conditions, they’re just not economically viable. And that could be for for profit groups or not for profit groups where you could have a not for profit group who wants to put up a, you know, six storey mass timber affordable apartment unit, but they can’t make the numbers work even if we take profit out of the equation. The fourth is productivity … that, you know, my dad was a sheet metal worker. He did heating and cooling, like HVAC work in apartments in the sixties and seventies. We, you know, if I put him on a job site today, his job wouldn’t have changed much in 60 years, despite the fact that we don’t really build anything else the same way we did 60 years ago. So that makes it hard to scale up. Right. That is a very … it’s a sector where we haven’t seen a lot of productivity increases. The next is permissions. There is some stuff that we can’t, you know, we would like to be able to do, but we can’t. And that’s, you know, everything from the building code to zoning rules to, you know, CMHC and so on. And then finally, big elephant in the room is obviously lack of non-market housing. That, as Tim pointed out, that over the last 40 years, government has got it gotten out of the business of a variety of housing forms, including, again, including things like on campus student rentals. So any solution set in our view, any any purpose built rental, supply side solution has to address those six bottlenecks. So that’s what we did. As far as the recommendations go. And you can go through the ten recommendations and each one of them specifically goes after those six, or at least the first eight go after those six with two additions that we also recognize that we’re not going to be able to build those overnight. So recommendations nine and ten, talk about how we can come up with funding programs to keep existing people in their homes and not have them fall into homelessness. Oh, and the last problem we just call it a lack of non-market housing. It was a shame that all the five we could come up with a nice one word terms for it and six was kind of hand-waving because there’s no great single term for it.

Mary W. Rowe [00:28:04] Not as concise.

Mike W. Moffatt [00:28:06] Not as concise.

Mary W. Rowe [00:28:07] Thanks, Mike. Interesting as you suggest that there’s not one solution and it’s got to be a mix of things. And I’m interested to hear from Carolyn now, who was, I gather, a participant in the process and who’s got … Has focused her particular recent research on a particular component of this. And then I’m going to ask all of you to put your cameras on when Carolyn finishes and then we’ll have a broader conversation. Lots of folks, as I predicted, lots of engagement in the chat. You’re missing things if you’re not reading the chat, you’re all multitaskers. You can listen and you can read the chat at the same time. Carolyn, over to you. Your perspective on this process and what do you think is new? Because you and I are, I’m a little bit older than you, but we’ve been around awhile, like, what is new in this housing accord document and the process that they use to arrive at it?

Carolyn Whitzman [00:28:56] Well, what’s new? Well, first of all, I was one of the 15 people locked in a room. To be fair, the food was excellent, so that helped. Okay, look, I want to go back to something Tim said and just sort of recast it a little bit. I’m actually an intensely political person because I think that the current housing crisis we’re in is caused by political choices. The political choices around non-market housing happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the decisions that are talked about in the record were made in 1972, for instance, around purpose built rental taxation settings and negative gearing and a whole bunch of things. So we’re talking about a deficit that’s been going on for 30 to 50 years in Canada, a democracy. We’re not going to be expecting to see a federal party in power for 30 to 50 years as much as every party wants to be that one at all three levels of government. And we do … I mean …The housing crisis is because of a failure at all three levels of government. It’s very rare for all three levels of government to be the same – municipal, provincial, federal. And in fact, it never happens across Canada. So what we do need is a broadened approach that’s based on some simple principles. Fortunately, we have those simple principles. We have the right to housing enshrined in law as of 2019. We have definitions of affordability that are the ones used internationally, for instance, 30% of household income. That’s a measure that’s used internationally. The problem is we talk about it in our definitions. We measure it. We have targets based on it. We don’t have programs based on it. We have a whole bunch of tools that we know have worked in the past. Acquisitions of private apartments for non-market housing that’s worked in the past, and it’s mentioned on the record. Scaling up non-market housing has worked in the past to create affordable housing for low and moderate income people. In the early 1970s, when we were building 500, 250, 260,000 homes a year and at least 50,000 homes a year were purpose built rental. We had affordable rental for low income households and certainly for moderate income households. And we had moderate income affordability like it didn’t need to even be middle class to buy a starter home. Now we have home costs that are three times what they were in the 1980s, four times what they were in the 1980s in Toronto, five times what they were in the 1980s in Vancouver. So we need to sort of go, “okay, we’ve got some problems. Let’s start counting accurately. Let’s talk about income categories”, which, as you know, Mary, is a particular interest of mine with the Housing Assessment Resource Tools Project. I mean, basically, by our calculations, we have about half a million one person households that can afford to pay $420 a month for housing. How are we going to create half a million homes, acquire whatever … Half a million homes, at 420 a month? And maybe we also need to look at guaranteed annual income, which I can get into, but it’s a bit off topic. We need about 3 million homes for people who are counted in the census, but also people who literally aren’t counted in our calculation of housing needs. Students aren’t counted as part of core housing need. Homeless people aren’t counted. People … 700,000 people in congregate housing, whether it’s long term care or group homes aren’t counted in core housing. Migrant workers aren’t counted for housing need. People who are driving 100 kilometers to their workplace aren’t counted for housing need, households that would want to be formed, whether it’s adults moving away from their parents or people in violent relationships moving away, that’s not counted in core housing need. So we need a universal language that can be used … It can be led by the federal government, picked up by provinces and municipalities associated with targets. And that’s what has worked in Canada in the past, and that’s what’s worked in other countries in the past to actually make a real difference. So for me, the accord is the start of that consensus based process that can have political viability in the way that any infrastructure plan – you don’t talk about two years or four years – like the housing accelerator fund, you start talking about 30 years and 50 years. And there’s a common language to talk about these issues.

Mary W. Rowe [00:34:10] Mm hmm. Thank you. I’ve had a hell of a time trying to keep up with the chat myself. There you go. Might be the first time on CityTalk that I would actually admit that. So thank you for all the vibrancy on CityTalk, plus what the participants are offering. So if we could see them all at once, that would be great. One of the common threads that I think we’re pulling up here is – obviously that it’s a system, that we need many options and many different kinds of actions to be taken. I want to talk about, the fancy word for it is agency, but I’m interested in hearing from the four of you in terms of you having immersed yourselves in this for the last couple of months to get the accord and then all your ongoing work that you’ve been doing on this topic for so long. How do we make this topic small enough that everyone feels they have a way to contribute to the solution? Because what I am fearful of is that if we sit back too far and spend a lot of time talking about large system change, people start to get dispirited because they don’t actually know how they themselves or their business or their organization or their kids can actually engage in solution making. So how do we get this to be small enough that it’s actionable at the local level? I can see folks in the chat from different sized communities that are trying to take matters into their own hands and find local solutions. And I’m wondering what kind of encouragement you four can offer to them about that. Who wants to go first? I’ll just call on you, Mike.

Carolyn Whitzman [00:35:45] Oh, I’ll start …

Mary W. Rowe [00:35:48] You start, Carolyn.

Carolyn Whitzman [00:35:49] I mean, in almost every community, there’s some group that you can join to act collectively. I mean, part of the problem is, or I should say, part of the good news is that how often used to be a “them” issue, it’s like, “oh, yeah, we’re unfortunate, but we’re okay”. It’s a little bit like looking out the window this summer and saying, “Hey, there’s no wildfires in my vicinity. I’m doing fine”. But we’re starting to see wisps of smoke everywhere across Canada to use that metaphor. So. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has a number of local alliances to end homelessness. If you’re concerned. And I think, as you say, I’m almost like everything’s flashing before my eyes, but I see a lot of people concerned about tenants, right? So I was part of the Parkdale Tenants Association in Toronto back in the day that I was a renter. There are a lot of tenant associations and there’s a lot of groups that are working on tenants rights. There are also and this is fairly recent and fairly new. I think you were asking about that, Mary, a lot of yimby’s and a lot of yimby’s across the political spectrum. I’ve been a yimby my whole life. I’ve been looking at why it seems much easier for governments to say no to low cost housing solutions than to say yes. And it encourages me to know end to see, particularly people under 40 who are locked out of affordable housing options joining YIMBY groups across Canada. So whatever your starting point, there is a local group and probably a national group that you can join to advocate for better housing policies.

Mary W. Rowe [00:37:35] And we watched during COVID the consultation mechanisms that were available for governments that had to do public consultation on particular development projects because they went online, meant that you had a whole bunch of stakeholders coming into those public meetings who don’t necessarily live in that neighborhood, but would say, “I’d like to live in that neighborhood. Thanks”. So I wonder if that gave a bit of a boost to the to the YIMBY sentiment. More neighbors … Toronto was one example. There’s also a similar organization in Calgary that are marshaling people to say yes, to say yes to development. And I see Gil Penaloza also saying let’s have a renovation revolution. Absolutely. So all of these things in smaller increments. I’m wondering when you look at the industry, Michael, and you look at how your sector is perceived, you’re generally, I think, perceived … I mean, listen, it’s a big, complicated sector, but that you guys only want to build big and you only want to build multi and you only want to build high end and make big profits. How do you counter that in terms of what we know is a more diverse sector that is engaged in creating housing units? How do you move more energy into those smaller projects that aren’t necessarily as ambitious and maybe not as lucrative as the bigger ones?

Michael Brooks [00:38:55] It’s a very good question. I can tell you that our sector is evolving – there is probably ten impact funds that I’m aware of – privately owned in our sector, and that number is growing. I can tell you that pension funds are increasingly looking at affordable housing as an asset class like it is in the U.S. and like it is in Europe. We need some mechanism to, I think, get across the goal line. And they were mentioned in the accord. So like the whole housing system is a system. So is the private market. And I have to look at barriers for the investor. Barriers for the lender. Barriers for the builder. I have to look at all three of those and then the approval barrier and figure out what’s the problem. You know, because all of you and all of you on this call will have seen headlines. But for many projects coast to coast, they don’t pencil out anymore. Right. Pens are down, pens are down. There’s so much uncertainty about – well is there going to be an interest rate hike, two weeks or a week from now? When are they going to start coming down, are they going to start coming down at all. How do I make my pro-forma work? What rent can I charge when the thing finally gets built? What would be the taxes that I pay all the way through? Each proforma is going to be different, and I can tell you that I’ve heard that even the not for profit sector deals may not pencil out anymore. So construction costs are high, interest rates are two and a half times what they were two years ago. So there’s a lot of barriers on our side and we have to tick through each one and solve all of those barriers to solve the whole system on the private side.

Carolyn Whitzman [00:40:48] I’m sorry, I’m going to jump in, Mary, just to furiously agree with Michael, that whether you’re … Particularly for nonprofit, the settings aren’t there to build homes, not just studios, but two or three bedrooms that are a thousand a month, which is what’s affordable to low income households across Canada or even 2500 a month, which is what’s affordable to households earning above average incomes across most of Canada. So there’s a lot that can be done in terms of zoning, in terms of building code. California just passed some changes to the building code that will enable point access blocks that allow small apartment buildings with larger units, more energy efficient, better sunlight, etc., etc.. All of those options are out there. They’re working in Europe that have completely different kinds of building codes. But we really have to start from the point – how are we going to start scaling up not just housing, not just rental housing, but rental housing that’s $1000 or $2000 a month and the solutions are out there, once we make that the problem and those solutions are non-market, but they also can be and have been in the past private market.

Mary W. Rowe [00:42:15] You know, always interesting to hear folks like you talking so constructively about … that … We’re in the problem solving business. You know, cities are about solving problems. That’s what cities do. And I’ll just hearken people to go back and read the death and Life of Great American Cities. The last chapter, “The kind of problem a city is” … It’s about work. Cities solving problems is about work. And I saw Charles Albert Ramsey this morning in Municipal World has put a really interesting article about cities being the producers of solutions. So a shout out to Municipal World and to Charles in Quebec about raising that issue that that’s what we need to be focused on, to not be deterred from work. We all are about work, and that’s what cities are about for these solutions. Interesting in terms of this notion of rules, do rules need to change to enable the kind of individual action or collective action, Carolyn, that you’re saying people could join and be part of? And Michael, the issue you’re raising with the industry, that there are various constraints and rules and monetary policy that are affecting proformas. Tim, do you want to comment a bit about how people find their place in this? And then Mike Moffatt, I’m going to come to you next.

Tim Richter [00:43:31] I think it’s it’s that and the idea of roles, right? Like I’ve often joked and I said this to our our crew offline, it’s like homelessness and housing are the political equivalent of a junior high school dance. Right? Like all different levels of governance stood around the walls, staring at their feet, waiting for someone else to go first. And in the absence of any direction, this is everybody’s problem but nobody’s, right? And until we start the dance, until we get some coordination, right, until we begin to have an agreement between levels of government, it’s very difficult for people to find their place in that conversation. Right? Until we’ve settled that down. Imagine responding to the wildfires without a crisis plan, without municipal disaster response … Ending homelessness at a community level, you use the emergency response methodology effectively. It’s very similar how you organize a local response to municipal disaster response. It’s very, very similar. And where homelessness falls apart, it’s not focused on housing, it’s focused on shelter. But we obviously, in municipal disaster response, focus on housing. But the difference is in a municipal disaster, in the wildfires, there is an agreement between municipal government, provincial government, federal government, on their roles in that situation. In housing, there is no agreement. So the rules are confusing and at cross-purposes. The rules are unclear. Nobody can find their place in it, and it’s left up to local innovators to work around whatever system is there. That’s why, what I hope comes out of this process is some form of national housing accord is some form of agreement between the three levels of government. Agreement on the outcome, Agreement on some of the definitions, as Carolyn is talking about. Agreement on roles and agreement on outcomes. And then they can … Like what our paper puts together is a bit of a road map on what should be included, but it’s really kind of a skeleton at the beginning of what should be that negotiation.

Mary W. Rowe [00:45:47] Interesting. Whether this is like a Trojan horse for rethinking federalism, because housing has now been accepted as THE current challenge, even though there are lots of others – homelessness and mental health and all the other things that are connected to it, or transit or economic development. Could this model of a multi-ordered, multisectoral approach be the Trojan horse for a new form of urbanism? Mike is that too optimistic a picture that I might be drawing there?

Mike Moffat [00:46:19] I would actually I would actually reframe that. I think we need an old level of federalism. I think we need to do back what we did in the late forties and early 1970s. Like if you look at the late 40s, it like … The CMHC practically built the town of Ajax. The federal government. Right? And that’s actually one of the things that we really tried to focus on in this accord is this is not the first time that Canada has had a housing crisis. I would argue there’s been at least two – the first … Or at least two since World War II. The first was immediately after World War II, when we had all the returning veterans coming home from Europe. And we hadn’t built any houses. And, you know, even before the war, because of the depression, massive housing shortage. So what did we do? Back then, we had a very aggressive CMHC that did things like have a catalog of pre-approved housing designs that allowed for approvals to be done quickly, allowed for economies of scale and allowed for productivity. So part of what we’re doing is suggesting, hey, let’s bring that back, but let’s have a 2023 version where, you know, we’re not just building wartime bungalows and we might want some of those as well. But what about having a pre-approved design for a six storey missing middle mass timber home that is incredibly energy efficient, could even be net zero. Then we could start building those at scale, which leads to better housing and climate outcomes.

Mary W. Rowe [00:47:51] … The Sears homes, right? I’ve just spent three days in eastern Ontario near Petawawa, where the Air Force base is. And I could see the kind of manufacturing housing that you’re talking about, that we have done at various points and in various places. Are you saying, for instance, a shout out then to manufactured housing, that we should see more willingness to go down that path, even though people will be worried that it’s a bit on the ugly side, just saying.

Mike Moffat [00:48:22] Well, I don’t think tent cities look that attractive either. I think, you know, it’s pick your poison here. I think it can be made. But, you know, there’s stuff in between, right? There’s panelization. There’s there’s things like that that we can use innovation policy for. We have to look at the building code that oftentimes we can’t do, use these things because the building code … the building codes are actually preventing us from the innovations. And again, the second kind of housing crisis I would look at is the late 1960s, early 1970s, when we had two things happening at the same time that first of all, we liberalize immigration rules, which was an excellent thing. Open that up. And as well, we had the first wave of baby boomers going into their first apartment, going into college and university. So the federal government had a number of policies back then, partly to build social housing, but also to accelerate the market, like having policies like the accelerated capital cost allowance that Carolyn mentioned that got blown up in 1972. So I actually think we need the old federalism back – that what happened was in the eighties and nineties we eroded that, that the federal government basically said, “oh that’s somebody else’s problem”. And in part they did it to the point which that was actually in the Charlottetown Accord that it was going to write out that, you know, housing is a provincial responsibility. I will point out to everyone the Charlottetown Accord failed. It is not the law of the land, but for some reason we’re all sort of acting like these constitutional Meech Lake/ Charlottetown Accord of the eighties and nineties somehow got into practice. So I think all we need to do is not have a new federalism. I think we need to have a return to the old Federalism which is still on the books and we’ve just forgotten about for whatever reason

Mary W. Rowe [00:50:09] I can tell you the notions of old and new federalism have the chat blowing up, as does my little cavalier comment that maybe manufacturing housing is ugly. All right, I hear you. It can be beautiful. It can be attractive. Let’s go to the question of money, access to capital, because Michael laid that out and we can all see it in our communities now, that there seem to be projects where there is something happening and now there’s nothing happening. And everybody has their own version of this and their own anxiety and their own experience of it. You mentioned, Michael, about a number of funds, social finance funds that are forming up. We’re seeing lots of corporate interest through ESG. I just want to let everybody know that can’t see the chat that a lot of these people in these senior roles are on this session. I can see them. And so let’s talk about whether we need to find more financial vehicles to de-risk building across the housing continuum. Would that help Michae? Would we see more entry? Would we see more entrants into the industry building smaller projects if they could get cheaper cash?

Michael Brooks [00:51:15] Yes, absolutely. And that’s both cheaper on the equity side (that’s the investor) and cheaper on the debt side. That is interest rates. But maybe that’s kind of the infrastructure bank or the federal government. So on the investor side – will they take a lower return to be in the affordable housing sector? Yes. Yes, they will. As long as it’s long duration and it is stable. Then go to the debt side. Five year money won’t cut it. We want long term money, like in the U.S. – we want 25 year money. We want 30 year money. To Mike’s idea, why can we not get 25 year mortgages at today’s bond rate? 3.94 or 4%. Why should we not get this match fund? That would push a lot of projects over the goal line. Can we get rid of some silly debt? Can we get rid of HST on purpose built rental? It just goes into a black hole. Why are you driving that tax? That doesn’t add any value …

Mary W. Rowe [00:52:26] Michael, do you think that would have a measurable impact if you got rid of the HST? I think there are some that feel that’s tinkering at the edges. Do you think it would make a difference?

Michael Brooks [00:52:34] Yes, I do. Would it get … How many projects would it get built tomorrow morning? I don’t know. I just know when you have a lower tax environment, all of a sudden there’s green shoots and some deals that were offside become onside again. You know, the total taxes, fees and charges. You’ve probably seen this data. North of 30% Canada-wide – to build an $8,000 condo, taxes fees and charges is going to be 30% of that, over $200,000. Is all that necessary? Well, you have to have dialog with municipalities. Do you need all that money? Can you get by with $150 do you in basements in every home? Do you need 66 foot right aways? Do you need sidewalks on both sides? Do you need all of these things? Can you not cut back a little bit and make these things affordable?

Carolyn Whitzman [00:53:23] Just to jump in, Mary, I mean, advantages of long term guaranteed rate mortgages other than introducing certainty, and every developer, whether they be a non-market developer, market developer, need certainty is that you could attach conditionality to it. The assisted rental program in the 1970s pegged low and moderate income rents to the financial package being offered to non-market and market developers. I also, you know, I’m going to be a big fan, as you may or may not know, of modular. The fact is that Sweden built a million homes, in Canadian terms … A million homes in Sweden in the 1960s. It’s 6 million homes today in Canada … on the back of modular. And that not only was successful in building a million no cost homes, it also led to the success of IKEA, because once you have these standardized rooms, you can have standardized bookcases in them. So I’ve seen modular companies come from nearly zero to exporting to the U.S. in the last few years because of the rapid housing initiative. So this isn’t just about Canada being at huge economic risk because we have the highest level of personal debt in the world, one of the lowest levels, by the way, of government social expenditure in the world among rich countries. It’s about the economic future.

Mary W. Rowe [00:54:55] I have a question about rules. We’re going to we’re in the homestretch here … In terms of the federal agencies and departments that actually have carriage over this. Is CMHC equipped with what it needs to have in terms of authorities and resources? Does it have what it needs to be able to provide the kinds of enabling conditions that I’m hearing you folks say that we want builders to take advantage of? That would be the first question. And then I guess the related … probably specifically to you, Tim, and others, would be does the National Housing Strategy now need to be updated in a certain kind of way. So – specifically CMHC … Thought, and just so you know, they’re on the call listening, I seem them … Thoughts on CMHC. Mike first.

Mike Moffat [00:55:37] Oh, actually, Tim. Tim, Do you want to take that when I say your hand up?

Tim Richter [00:55:40] Well, this is a conversation I’ve had with Romy directly, so I don’t mind … I don’t want mind saying this … But I think structurally – so Canada got out of affordable housing investor, really that an active role in housing 30 or 40 years ago, and has effectively forgotten how to do it. Right? And CMHC they’re full of really really great people, but it’s effectively a mortgage insurance company. Right? And it’s hard … you’re trying to shift gears and the government where I think a mistake it made in the national housing strategy is it created this national housing strategy and then asked its mortgage insurance company to lead on policy … they don’t have the policy heft that they need to have. And in many ways, you know, CMHC is trying to implement the National Housing Strategy with an arm tied behind his back because it doesn’t have any say on fiscal policy. It doesn’t have finance. You know, some of the biggest levers that the federal government has in-hand is in finance, not in CMHC. So I think in some ways they were kind of handicapped. And the other thing is they developed the national housing strategy, they being the federal government, and then changed the markers along the way. Right. So introduced the idea of a national housing … introduced CFI then introduced the idea of a national housing strategy, which, by the way, is a direct result of advocacy from people like Cathy Crowe, who I know is on the line. Then they introduced the budget and the programs for the National Housing Strategy. Then they introduced the National Housing Strategy Act, which changed what the outcomes of the Housing Act should be. Then they introduced a commitment to ending chronic homelessness, which was in a Speech from the Throne. So the milestones, what it’s supposed to do, are different than what it is set up to do. And the world changed in seven years. So I think we need to give CMHC a little bit of grace to say they were kind of set up, right? And there’s issues with some of the programs. But again, I think, yes, it’s time for a rethink of the National Housing Strategy, and I think that’s going to come very, very quickly.

Mary W. Rowe [00:58:04] I think the point is … and sometimes the CUI sits in the middle of this with our – with academics and with various folks, many of whom are on this chat, I can see them, around providing best policy advice to CMHC and now to Infrastructure Canada, and as you suggested, access to the Ministry of Finance. And there are a number of people in the chat commenting on … that part of the dilemma we have is that municipal services are funded through the property tax. So that creates a whole different dynamic. And how do we level that? So any other comments in terms of federal leadership? Go ahead Mike Moffatt …

Mike Moffat [00:58:35] Yeah, so I’m just going to add to that. And, you know, this is something, you know, I’ve been talking about for a while, that if we look at what needs to happen or even the points in the accord, it actually stretches over about eight or nine different ministries. Right. Because we also talk about productivity policy. That’s innovation. But a lot of the modular housing startups and companies are in like rural Newfoundland or places like that. So that’s regional economic development … One of the biggest levers that the federal government has to drive innovation in housing is procurement. Well, that’s Treasury Board. But also you look at who’s going to buy the homes – one of the big areas that we should be looking at and I say this personally because I’ve got a cousin in law … I’ve got a cousin in law in the Canadian Forces who has trouble finding homes for his family. Right? So, you know, we should have the Department of Defense, you know, buying some of these modular homes and in other areas. So, you know, now we’ve got that department. So when we look at all of the departments who should be involved in this, you know, you’re probably getting into the double digits at some point. And that’s why this coordination is so important, because the CMHC can’t do it on its own or even, you know, even now that housing is under infrastructure, they only have a certain set of policy levers. They have to work … You know, this has to be an all of government approach, which requires essentially leadership from the center.

Mary W. Rowe [01:00:06] There you go. All of government approach. One last thing, I want to just chat … We’ve only got three more minutes. But land … Is cheaper or public land made available? Is land an important answer? Would you start with that? Carolyn?

Carolyn Whitzman [01:00:27] Well, the HART Project has mapped out land at all three levels of government and 12 cities across Canada, and not just in obvious places like Ottawa and Gatineau, but also in Calgary and Edmonton. There is plenty of government land that’s well suited for non-market, mixed use, mixed income development, and that’s definitely one of the places that I’d start … I’m meeting with the board of the Canada Lands Company tomorrow to talk to them. It’s obviously something that is one of the many keys to the issue.

Mary W. Rowe [01:01:03] Mm hmm. And who are the other land stewards that might be sitting on land that could be redeveloped or made available? That’s another question, because it may … It’s orders of government, it might be school boards, it could be hospitals, it could be universities. Right?

Carolyn Whitzman [01:01:15] It can be transit lines. And Ontario has been particularly useless when it comes to using train stations for affordable housing. I hear Mike laughing … Something we’re definitely in agreement about.

Mary W. Rowe [01:01:31] Someone is just here. Gary’s just put in. What about churches? So listen, guys, as always is the case with CityTalk, it’s always the beginning of the conversation, not the end. And this chat will go down in history as one of the most lively chats we’ve ever had, both on screen and also on the chat column. And just to reassure people that haven’t been able to keep up – we publish the chat so you’ll get a chance to read it. I also just want to thank people who bothered to tell us whether they’re coming in from home or work and if they’re going to mask or no mask. We’ll tally that, send it out so people can see it. Not that it’s an official poll or anything, but it is interesting to get a bead on how people are approaching it … Last sentence to each of you. The seminal thing you want people to take from your report … Tim Richter

Tim Richter [01:02:13] Homelessness and Housing. The housing crisis are solvable problems.

Mary W. Rowe [01:02:18] Are solvable?

Tim Richter [01:02:19] Solvable problems

Mary W. Rowe [01:02:21] Thanks. Michael Brooks?

Michael Brooks [01:02:24] I would say that if I can help solve the homelessness and affordable housing problem, then the market housing problem will be solved itself.

Mary W. Rowe [01:02:32] Thanks, Michael. Carolyn?

Carolyn Whitzman [01:02:36] Really what Tim and Michael have said. I see, as Tim does, homelessness is part of the housing crisis. It is solvable. The solutions are out there. Let’s do it.

Mary W. Rowe [01:02:48] It’s solvable. Mike Moffat?

Mike Moffat [01:02:51] Ok, the last one is- don’t let people on Twitter play armchair constitutional lawyer. The federal government has a very important role in housing, despite what the Meech Lake Accord or Charlottetown Accord would make you believe, they never passed. So don’t let the federal government off the hook. They have a role in policy, but also they need to wear the Team Canada jersey and coordinate all three orders of government.

Mary W. Rowe [01:03:18] Thanks, Mike. Thank you, Mike. Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Tim. Thanks, Carolyn. Don’t be a bystander. I feel like CityTalk infuses in all of us a reminder that we are all engaged in this great pursuit and experiment of making cities better for everyone. A couple of plugs I’ll put in … One is – we’ll post all this in a couple of days. You’ll be able to see it. We’ll also create a podcast from it so you can go on your walks and listen. Next week or two weeks from now, we’re at the Art of City building in Halifax. We’ll be doing a city talk from there on the role of libraries and civic institutions in terms of boosting all the challenges that we’re facing in urban life. We think libraries are critical to that. The week following we are happy to support ICLEI in their Livable Cities forum in downtown Mississauga. We hope a lot of you will tune in to that. And also today, although you get advance preview, we’re announcing tomorrow, we are opening registration for our first annual State of Canada’s cities. We’re publishing a report of which these folks are contributing. And we’ll have a live session in Ottawa, nation’s capital, on November 30. Registration opens for you guys today. You’ll see it in a newsletter tomorrow, plan to be with us to talk about at the crossroads and where cities are going. Thanks. November 30. Thanks, everybody. Really great that we got you on, Michael, travel safely back … And the conversation ain’t over. It just begins. Thanks, everybody.

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12:03:42 From Ruby Bissett to Everyone:
Hello all. Ruby Bissett with the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, joining from the unceded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations
12:03:46 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
Hello from Edmonton 🙂
12:03:47 From Reg Nalezyty to Everyone:
Hello from Thunder Bay
12:03:48 From Andrea Ellis Nsiah to Everyone:
Hello from Timmins, ON- Treaty 9. Traditional Land Use Area of Mattagami First Nation
12:05:56 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Hi everyone.
12:06:20 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Please note that given the limited duration of these sessions, we are not able to answer to raised hands. Do you have specific questions for the panellists? Post them in the chat, and we’ll try to answer as many as possible.
12:06:34 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Dr. Michael Brooks – CEO, Real Property Association of Canada (Toronto, ON)
12:06:36 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Michael is the Chief Executive Officer at REALPAC, with overall responsibility for the success of the organization and the industry, including events, government relations, research, standards and best practice, and education. Michael was formerly a commercial real estate lawyer and partner, and the real estate practice group leader, at a major Canadian law firm.
12:06:45 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone: @REALPAC_News
12:08:24 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Respectfully, we need to move away from property ladder
12:08:43 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Home ownership is no longer the goal for many
12:09:47 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Check out the Housing Accord here:
12:10:06 From Linda Williams to Everyone:
Hello from Winnipeg from home no mask
12:10:12 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Please note that responses to questions and additional resources will be provided in the chat by CUI staff.
12:10:19 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb #citytalk
12:10:22 From Anton Burdin to Everyone:
Could we use Infrastructure based Transferable Development Rights (TDR) to untangle our zoning and permits?
12:10:27 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
home ownership here in BC is just out of the field
12:12:46 From Tim Douglas to Everyone:
It has been quite wild to see how disconnected the government has been regarding the connections between immigration + housing. Such a strong connection and surprised it was not planned for.
12:12:47 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
On top of population growth, Covid resulted in a sudden surge in remote work and more demand for residential space (and less for office space). We’ve got high demand colliding with inelastic supply, especially in Metro Vancouver and the GTA.
12:13:21 From Anton Burdin to Everyone:
No private company would increase supply in the anticipation of price decrease.
12:13:40 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so we can all see your comments.
12:13:44 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
I feel like my grandmother, running a board house, offering rooms in my home to people who cannot find a place to live. #2MillionEmptyBedrroms
12:13:54 From Charles Finley to Everyone:
It is not just supply writ large but also where that supply is and the type of that supply (housing type) in terms of contributing to city-building and sustainable communities.
12:14:07 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
The loss of housing through financialization equates to four units lost for each one that is built. Supply on its own does not address loss, or eviction prevention.
12:14:44 From karen rea to Everyone:
We need the right supply. Purpose Built rentals and social housing is badly needed. Developers do not build affordable housing and just increasing market supply does not help those on a fixed income or those making minimum wage and can no longer afford market rent
12:14:53 From Abe Oudshoorn to Everyone:
If we are all in agreement on the need for supply, why are new starts slowing right now and what can we do about it?
12:15:19 From Emma Cochrane to Everyone:
Interested to hear more about building new co-op housing – is there a model where private builders can build the building and transfer ownership to a co-op? Does it need to be built by a non-profit?
12:15:31 From Annie Sudeyko to Everyone:
We can’t just increase supply without addressing financialization. There is no point in increasing supply by building luxury condos that are treated as an investment opportunity, rather than a fundamental human need
12:15:46 From Anne Landry to Everyone:
STOP THE LOSS due to financialization of housing – we are being RENT GOUGED in Calgary – protect renters and the existing supply of affordable, accessible, adequate, secure tenure housing – HOUSING is a HUMAN RIGHT! Declare a HOUSING EMERGENCY in Calgary – we need help NOW!
12:16:09 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Tim Richter – President & CEO, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (Calgary, AB)
12:16:10 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Tim Richter is the Founder, President & CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH). Under his leadership, the CAEH has: helped shape federal, provincial and local homelessness action and policy including the national implementation of Housing First, the National Housing Strategy and Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy; hosted five highly successful National Conferences on Ending Homelessness; co-authored three State of Homelessness in Canada reports in 2013, 2014 and 2016; launched a national Training and Technical Assistance program as a mission based, non-profit training and technical assistance program; and, launched the 20,000 Homes Campaign – a national movement of communities working together to house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people and end chronic homelessness in 20 communities. Prior to joining the CAEH, Tim was President & CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation charged with leading the implementation of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.
12:16:12 From Dustin Carey to Everyone:
@Byrony, I’m wondering what you mean by that loss of four units for every one built. Is that meant to be specific to affordable housing?
12:16:23 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
My frustration has always been the focus on increasing private housing, incentivizing the private sector to build more stock, but that stock is not affordable (and actually contributes to the affordability of the entire neighbourhood). Essentially, it feels like the private developer focus is systematically gentrifying the entire country, and governments keep throwing fuel on the fire in an effort to put it out.
12:16:24 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Yes, affordable units
12:16:27 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Abe: higher interest rates and higher costs are making construction less economically viable. To counteract it, one of the National Housing Accord recommendations is to provide low-cost long-term loans to build rental housing
12:16:34 From Shelley Petit to Everyone:
universal design or accessible design, following Australian models would be something we should be pushing. In NB we are 26.7% of the population. In Canada it’s 22%- and these are 2015 numbers. Stars Can hasn’t released more recent numbers, because they are rising. Add in seniors, and we’ll over 50% of us require accessible housing. UD keeps all units available to be rented, and not just being held “in case” a person with a disability falls homeless.
12:16:49 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone: @CAEHomelessness @timrichter
12:17:19 From Abe Oudshoorn to Everyone:
Well said, Tim! “Focus public investment on non-market options.”
12:17:32 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Housing as a system: it’s a ladder, it’s all connected. When we don’t have enough market housing, the people who would have lived there don’t vanish, they move down the ladder. We get trickle-down evictions and tremendous pressure on people near the bottom of the ladder.
12:17:43 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
The CityTalk chat is as lively as ever. Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb #citytalk
12:17:56 From Cathy Crowe to Everyone:
I invite folks to follow me on X at @cathyacrowe especially for the info I self-curate on COVID that comes via reputable Canadian infectious disease docs and epidemiologists. 😷
12:17:56 From Mark Guslits to Everyone:
Bryony, nice to see you here. you might remember Danielle and I from Wheeler.
12:17:58 From Charles Finley to Everyone:
Love the systems-focus that Tim is bringing which might also depolarize the housing discussion
12:18:19 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
I like the way you state housing is a system,
12:18:28 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Hi Mark!!!
12:18:34 From Mark Roseland to Everyone:
Why not focus more on getting land out of the speculative market, eg, community land trusts?
12:18:51 From Diane Therrien to Everyone:
Yes Tim! 👏
12:18:57 From Keith Rivers to Everyone:
Citizens for Cambridge are supporting BuildNow for 10,000 half market price affordable homes in Waterloo Region, dependant on municipalities donating land. there it is currently stuck
12:19:05 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
prioritizing a systems approach moves the focus from one or the other, to all. love this.
12:19:38 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
cities that have land should be building subsidized housing on those bits of land
12:20:00 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
I’m curious if the panel has an opinion on how we grapple with the deeply connected issues of cost of living (i.e. food insecurity) and income stagnation. Is that creating a gap that is too big to jump for the housing market?
12:20:02 From Linda Weichel to Everyone:
Yes, journey has many paths and many sectors have ways to contribute.
12:20:08 From karen rea to Everyone:
vacant housing and domestic speculation is contributing to the problem and short term accommodation takes housing out of what could be long term rentals
12:20:08 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
“I don’t have the luxury of being ideological” – what an important statements in regards to the housing crisis.
12:20:16 From Abe Oudshoorn to Everyone:
Mark: Great point on prioritizing land for housing. I would include use of government land at all orders of government. Personally horrified to see Poilievre’s suggestion made in London that his solution is to sell of federal properties. Would rather see this land used to support non-profit builders and public sector.
12:20:26 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
How do AirBnBs affect the housing market?
12:20:34 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Dr. Mike Moffatt – Senior Director, Policy and Innovation, Smart Prosperity Institute (Ottawa, ON)
12:20:36 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone:
Dr. Mike Moffatt is the Senior Director of Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute and an Assistant Professor in the Business, Economics and Public Policy group at Ivey Business School, Western University. Mike’s research at SPI focuses on the intersection of regional economic development, building child-friendly, climate-friendly housing and communities, and clean innovation. In 2017, Mike was the Chief Innovation Fellow for the Government of Canada, advising Deputy Ministers on innovation policy and emerging trends. He has also previously held the titles of Director (Interim) of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, Director of Policy at Canada 2020, and Chief Economist for the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto. Mike has worked with politicians and policymakers of all political stripes in several countries to craft more effective public policy. Outside of his clean economy work at SPI, Mike is a disability-rights activist.
12:20:42 From Emilie Charlebois to Everyone: @SP_Inst @MikePMoffatt
12:21:39 From Mark Richardson to Everyone:
Government land alone will not create new build “below $1,000/month” rental apartments in Canada’s major cities…
12:22:15 From Linda Williams to Everyone:
Cities need rent controls and cities need to sell boarded up properties for $1 they acquire and not sell them to greedy developers with no compassion for people. Housing for people not profits.
12:22:20 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Affordable as defined by income and not market rent..
12:23:33 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
Does anyone here understand why CMHC financing is pegged to the 10-yr bond rate, rather than allocating a book of federal public funds for financing non-market housing (i.e. owned by non-profits) at 2% or something like that? What prevents that from being possible?
12:23:34 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
Why is it in the 10 recommendations of the National Housing Accord that rent/vacancy control and creation of rent registry and strengthening of tenant protections isn’t on this list of recommendations?
12:23:58 From Ken Kunka to Everyone:
too many different groups operating in “cylinders” of excellence.
12:24:01 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
The National Housing Accord focuses on building more rentals in the first place
12:24:27 From Lila Huron-Albinger to Everyone:
Living in West5, a solar-powered development that is planned to be a walkable15-minute neightbourhood in London, renting by choice. Wonderful decision to live here, we love it!
12:24:45 From Ken Kunka to Everyone:
Will this be recorded an sent out as I would like my team to watch this!
12:24:51 From Rachael Putt to Everyone:
what was the second last problem?
12:24:53 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
I would have put permissions closer to the front! We’ve got people who want to live in Vancouver, and other people who want to build housing for them – but it’s super-difficult to get permission
12:25:00 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Second-last problem was permissions
12:25:07 From Rachael Putt to Everyone:
Thank you
12:25:14 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
@Ken yes! the recording will be available next week at
12:25:32 From Steven Amirikah to Everyone:
what is the last problem called?
12:26:11 From Anne Landry to Everyone:
Need those who have endorsed the National Housing Accord to agree NOT to RENT GOUGE tenants – landlords must agree NOT to increase rents higher than inflationary costs especially if have 45%+ Net Operating Income – if they have RENT GOUGED they MUST ROLL BACK RENTS in order to participate in the National Housing Accord.
12:26:43 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
Kira Gerwing – good question. I believe it has to do with the bundling of mortgages and selling them to CMHC as mortgage backed securities which are not resold but rather used to back Mortgage Bonds. Our mortgages are at most usually only 5 year terms so that drives the terms of the bonds.
12:26:44 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Shane Phillips’ “The Affordable City” has some good discussion of rent stabilization and rent control
12:26:47 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Dr. Carolyn Whitzman – Housing and Social Policy Consultant and Adjunct Professor, Geography, Environment and Geomatics, at University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)
12:26:49 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Dr. Carolyn Whitzman is a housing and social policy consultant. She is an expert advisor to the Housing Assessment Resource Tools (HART) project based at UBC, which is developing standardized best practices for doing housing need, land, and acquisition assessments, using detailed, open data. Carolyn is the author, co-author or lead editor of six books, including most recently Clara at the Door with a Revolver (UBC Press, 2023), and the forthcoming How to Home: Fixing Canada’s Housing Crisis (UBC Press, 2024). She has provided expertise to national, state/provincial and local governments, UN Women, UN Habitat, and private and non-profit organizations.
12:26:55 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone: @CWhitzman
12:27:19 From Michel Labbe to Everyone:
Rental is key but there are limited tax dollars to address such a large problem. The Co-operative Home Ownership Sector has created a complimentary model that can reach incomes as low as $35,000 a year without needing grants and subsidies. This allows us to propose projects at the scale that is needed, as many as 10,000 units in one project phased over time. Happy to talk about it. Call Mike Labbe (416) 801-2086 or Note there is still a role for all levels of government. More housing for low income workers is key to the economic health of the country.
12:27:46 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
For anyone who needs the link, the Housing Accord can be accessed here:
12:28:53 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
@Paul – thanks for that. I’m aware of a recent PhD research study that explained mortgage-backed securities and the Canada Housing Trust (administered by CIBC, of all things!). The reality is that financing costs affect viability. When CMHC was financing at <2%, many rental projects were moving forward. If there was a commitment to funding at that rate exclusively for non-market developers, we’d make a dent in this problem over the next ten years…and create a market that was complimentary and additional to what the private sector can do without incentives.
12:29:29 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
As always, the The CityTalk chat is thoughtful, provocative and dynamic! Keep posting in the chat and amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb #citytalk
12:29:32 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
To me there’s two different shortages – a long-standing shortage of non-market housing for lower-income households, and a more recent acute shortage of market housing. In Metro Vancouver and the GTA, this is affecting younger people all the way up the income spectrum. People making $100,000 can barely scrape by; there’s people making $70,000 who are homeless and couch-surfing.
12:29:39 From Mark Richardson to Everyone:
…average “Rent Geared to Income” (RGI) rents in Cities like Toronto and Calgary are below $425/month. Creating new-build of those kinds of units would require BILLIONS in new direct-subsidy of approx. ~$24,000 per unit/year.
12:29:49 From Kasimir Kish to Everyone:
Kira – That would signal a proper commitment by CMHC.
12:29:50 From karen rea to Everyone:
Even BILD has released a paper saying that we will need 300,000 rental units in the next decade
12:30:49 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
12:30:56 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so all can see your comments. Do you have specific questions for the panellists? Post them in the chat, and we’ll try to answer as many as possible.
12:31:23 From Alexandra Shannan to Everyone:
People with developmental disabilities who are living at home with aging caregivers are not counted in Core Housing need…
12:31:27 From Gil Penalosa to Everyone:
Renovation revolution. Allow as of right to divide houses everywhere, up to 4 units. If 5% of Toronto does it, we’d have over 50,000 additional units, fast. Win-win-win. Owner, empty nester, gets income from 3 units and ages in place, 1000s sm medium contractors, doing thousands of renovation. Renters, options everywhere. Cities need a one stop shop office at City Hall, solving all, legal, financial, contractors, etc. Fast. If owner want Fed funding, then 1 of 3 units must be at 1/2 the rent of others for at least 10 yrs. Part of solution. Needs cities to support, promote, facilitate.
12:31:51 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
renovictions are a huge problem
12:31:55 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
One thing I really like about the National Housing Accord is that it covers both market and non-market housing. (And the permissions bottleneck is a barrier to both market and non-market housing.)
12:32:03 From adriana dossena to Everyone:
Currently, municipal/regional ie local governments budgets only allocate 2-5% to planning….would coordination/collaboration barrier be better addressed with more support & interdisciplinary teams-based measures be a viable way to address & implement approaches to proactive, multi-solve in meaningful/relevant integrated, transparent systems-based approach?
12:32:41 From Linda Weichel to Everyone:
Mike talked about lack of productivity and lack of innovation in how homes get built. What can the private sector do to reduce the cost of building homes to make affordable housing more viable?
12:32:54 From Gil Penalosa to Everyone:
Housing in public land should be affordable and deep affordable. Cities like Toronto with Tory have given them to market, total or large part; wrong. To market, incentives, as of right on all transit arterials, save 2 yrs…
12:32:56 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@Kira can you post a link to that study? I understand the feds are considering moving the Canada Mortgage Bonds (which bear a higher rate that standard government bonds) into the general bond pool. The result is about a 20%+ increase in debt issue but at that 20%+ is at a lower rate so there is some cost savings. The big question is whose cost savings?
12:33:10 From sam A. Shukor to Everyone:
by focusing on areas of potential in the urban fabric
12:33:14 From Abe Oudshoorn to Everyone:
London just went to 4 units as-of-right, looking forward to see if people take it up! (Although easier permissions can have limited impact, as they increase the land value, see: – I’m still hopeful this is a step in the right direction on the planning and permissions side).
12:33:28 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
Just sent it, Paul – here it is again:
12:33:32 From karen rea to Everyone:
i sent out a survey to my residents in an established area and only one resident said that they would turn their detached home into a tri-plex. residents living in low rise areas do not want to put additional units on their lot.
12:33:34 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
There’s a network of pro-housing groups which speaks to city councils to support housing projects, to counter NIMBYism (like More Neighbours Toronto)
12:33:48 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Karen: NIMBYism is a huge issue!
12:34:43 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@Kira “public risks, private benefits” that says it all.
12:34:53 From Abby Slater (she/her) to Everyone:
Sorry late! From Tkaranto!
12:35:17 From Harvey Cooper to Everyone:
Thank all the panelists for their insights. Any chance panelists, for those who participated in the Federal Cabinet retreat, what their sense was of the government’s receptivity to the recommendations in the Housing Acord? All the best, Harvey Cooper Habitat GTA
12:35:25 From Jordan Farber to Everyone:
Agree we need all 3 levels of government. We have completed some First Nation owned CMHC Co-Investment funded projects over the last couple of years with support from Federal and Municipal. With increased bond rates, we need the Province to be at the table as well in order for them to continue to be viable otherwise these units simply won’t get built as they won’t cash flow (ie: will be underwater).
12:35:56 From Shelley Petit to Everyone:
Be sure to learn what your provincial human rights association guarantees. For example, in NB, we have protection for both service animals and emotional support animals
12:36:19 From Cathy Crowe to Everyone:
I urge people to really examine what advocacy groups are out there. You may need to start a new one. Currently, the state of housing advocacy groups is very weak.
12:36:38 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
The piece that really hurts this discussion is when the conversation feels too big, the tools too hard to use and the solutions are just not “doable.” The piece that HELPS this discussion is when the conversation is framed as every option helps (rather than always striving to find the perfect solution)
12:36:39 From Abby Slater (she/her) to Everyone:
Right. What does “development” mean?
12:36:46 From Ann McAfee to Everyone:
Discussions about Municipalities doing more. Provide Free Land! Speed up permissions! Reduce fees! No discussion about rethinking how municipalities fund their services. Homes are built in communities. Communities are responsible for providing the physical and social infrastructure to support residents. Over time more service delivery has been downloaded to municipalities without the resources to deliver. Consequently, municipalities use rezonings to fund local services. We need to rethink municipal authority to generate revenue to better reflect today’s realities.
12:37:01 From karen rea to Everyone:
For every condo tower that is being built – developers can sell 20-30 units to housing York at “cost” in exchange for extra density and these units could be used for those on a waiting list. the issue we have is the Region does not have the funding to purchase the units and the Feds only provide funding for 100 units every 2 years. we have 15000 people on a wait list for affordable housing
12:37:43 From Abby Slater (she/her) to Everyone:
Missing middle (sorry if this already has been covered)
12:38:01 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has developed community acceptance & AH myth busting!
12:38:29 From sam A. Shukor to Everyone:
I think sustainability, environmental concerns and housing should all be looked at as a one system
12:38:31 From Bryony Halpin to Everyone:
Thanks @Jasmine! That is our work 🙂
12:38:31 From a lorius to Everyone:
Bank of Canada just held rates any thoughts on short term effects ?
12:38:55 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Is there any work going on to educate the public about economic viability? I don’t think it’s well-understood. (My own attempt:
12:38:56 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
There has never been a public market with government mandated annual increases in revenues, so why is the rental market like this? This is an official public policy that keeps less wealthy people in poverty.
12:39:02 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Well done @Bryony 🙂
12:39:55 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
Carolyn is also right that this is a political problem. Local politicians will not face down NIMBYism until they are the minority in a neighbourhood. One of the leverage points to shift that dialogue is to ask where our Teacher Assistants or local barrista will live – and more – where will our kids live. Our homogenous housing forms bar too many people.
12:39:59 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Montreal has single-stair design (second exit is via shared staircase) – might be the only city in Canada which does
12:40:07 From Julian Villafuerte Diaz to Everyone:
Such an important point about costs. They are prohibitive now. We need to direct our efforts at bringing costs down before getting anything done. I really appreciate how the housing accord highlights this.
12:40:27 From Carley Friesen to Everyone:
I wonder if there is a lack of lived-experience among decision makers? There is perhaps not the urgency required when decision makers are seeing big increases to the value of their home. Curious to know how many that helped develop this accord are renters, and how many are homeowners?
12:40:32 From Mark Richardson to Everyone:
Build BIG is needed, because we need to create tens of thousands of new rental apartments (at all income levels) every year in Toronto alone. Missing middle / Gentle density is fine – but experience in Vancouver and Toronto shows that it doesn’t scale to the kind of volume of new unit delivery needed in the 2020’s…
12:40:43 From Ethan Gottesman-Kaplun to Everyone:
Homeowners have a natural self-interest in real estate values continuing to appreciate, and they are the majority of voters — how can we convince them to think and vote YIMBY?
12:40:46 From Anton Burdin to Everyone:
Could we use Infrastructure based Transferable Development Rights (TDR) to untangle our zoning, permits and taxes?
12:40:53 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@a lorius BOC is holding the rate to see the effects take effect as homeowners renew mortgages in the next couple months. Only short term effects will be higher foreclosures
12:40:57 From Mark Roseland to Everyone:
Kudos to @GilPenalosa on renovation revolution and Abby on missing middle. Can we talk more about these approaches, not just big developments?
12:41:18 From Karen Hemmingson to Everyone:
Our problem going forward is that housing is an investment, and is disconnected from local incomes. We need to give some thought and energy to what kind of community we are creating. 6% of housing stock is such a small amount for the need of the population…
12:41:31 From Elaine Magil to Everyone:
The US model works by offering a non-cash flow carrot that mission-agnostic capital is willing to sign up for. In the US it’s a tax credit, but it could be done a lot of ways. It’s not a perfect model it IS immensely productive with (after 30+ years of existence) fairly few unintended consequences despite millions of income- and rent-restricted units built.
12:41:44 From Steve Pomeroy to Everyone:
Agree with Ann McAfee – lots of suggestions that municipalities could reduce fees and charges – but unlike fed/provs can’t run deficits. So how can they make up the revenue losses? Senior governments have the greatest fiscal resoutces
12:42:01 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Ethan: I think homeowners are primarily concerned about neighbourhood change rather than property values
12:42:24 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
Right on Elaine! Tax Credits can unleash and direct needed capital.
12:42:45 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Many politicians pass the buck regarding responsibility for numerous issues.
12:42:47 From Ethan Gottesman-Kaplun to Everyone:
Thanks Russil, I’ll take a look
12:42:59 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Steve: Andrew Sancton suggests that municipalities could issue bonds to pay for capital spending, to be repaid through slightly higher property taxes.
12:43:33 From Charles Finley to Everyone:
Perhaps not make it a zero sum choice on housing models, market, non-market, forgotten models like co-op housing. We need a diversity of these models and how they get funded.
12:43:36 From Shelley Petit to Everyone:
In Fredericton, 12 communities has been wonderful. The main developer kicked in the first million ( because he had the ability and willingness to do so) . Over 100 units in a short period of time, proving the importance of will and getting rid of predetermined stereotypes of who is homeless.
12:43:49 From Abe Oudshoorn to Everyone:
I urge caution on a singular perspective on interest rates. People experiencing poverty are hurt the most by general inflation. Rates are a blunt tool but unchecked inflation would have been catastrophic for those living in the lowest income brackets.
12:43:49 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Part of the problem is Federalism I.e. who is responsible for what?
12:44:00 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
We’ve seen too many examples where municipalities “give” free land, but ultimately expect a return on their “gift” through clawing back surplus net operating income. They do that at the expense of affordability. Municipalities are not great developers (nor should they be). Their role should stick to land use policies that enable non-market housing development and govern market development.
12:44:09 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@Ethan YIMBY actually increases land values, e.g. a large condo tower goes up in your back yard and the surrounding land values increase. This is the paradox of transit oriented intensification. These large towers along transit route make it unaffordable to live along transit routes – but they generate tons of municipal revenues and keep municipal service costs to a minimum.
12:44:26 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
Seeing the many Housing Task Force recommendations across the country (the 53 in Ontario, 33 in Calgary), etc. WE KNOW THE TOOLS. We have the tools, its really in the getting it done where it seems to stall. The Federal responsibility to incentivize this will be key.
12:44:31 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Really appreciating Tim’s metaphor on disaster planning for solving homelessness.
12:44:33 From Kirk Whittal to Everyone:
It is surprising, that if a gov’t led drive for Non Profit Housing….i.e. strong capital contributions/some level of operating…builders to a certain degree could hedge their bets with regard to investing in land vs, building only or a blend. It would provide some certainty in the market.
12:45:04 From Stephanie Chai to Everyone:
Furiously agreeing from the Edmonton region. Great dialogue and so many potential solutions being presented today – collaboration, coordination, and community. Looking forward to solving problems and working together across the housing continuum.
12:45:08 From Steve Pomeroy to Everyone:
The greenbelt debacle in Ontario reveals the MASSIVE profits/gains generated by public decision to permit (or increase density). The public decision prices CREATES higher land value – so how can we use public planning decision framework to create a bigger pie and then how to share those value gains – e.g via expanded inclusionary zoning. Industry pushes back – but this can be a “win-win”
12:45:21 From Shelley Petit to Everyone:
Have ikea make house kits and we put them up
12:45:39 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Apparently Sweden builds 80% of its apartments using prefab!
12:45:40 From Milton Friesen to Everyone:
Mike Moffatt – like the idea of examining eras when Canada housing production was high. What were those conditions? What can we do now in that direction?
12:45:41 From Carol Cochrane to Everyone:
Love the pre-approved design idea!
12:45:42 From Sarah Woodgate to Everyone:
I agree with Mike we need to revisit the housing system similar to the approach postww2. And have the federal government to maintain the programs providing consistent supply of social housing and permanent supportive housing as well as rental with affordability regulation as well as ownership opportunities. Agree it is a new 2023 version for reimagining our cities as original houses are replaced with new houses.
12:45:42 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
In the 1990s, the Federal Government downloaded many of its housing responsibilities to the Provinces.
12:45:46 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Canada won its reputation in the housing sector/CMHC through our past.
12:46:03 From Alyson King to Everyone:
Good book with an overview of these historical actions: Suttor, G. (2016). Still Renovating: A History of Canadian Social Housing Policy. McGill-Queen’s University Press.
12:46:13 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Is housing too specialized?
12:46:17 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
manufactured housing doesn’t have to be ugly
12:46:20 From Mark Guslits to Everyone:
at that time, cmhc also created marvellous new residential enclaves like Wildwood Park in Winnipeg.
12:46:21 From Madeleine Hebert to Everyone:
BC is starting to look at pre-fab options:
12:46:37 From Lisa Helps to Everyone:
Offsite manufactured housing doesn’t have to be ugly!
12:46:45 From Keith Rivers to Everyone:
Buildnow is using wartime bungalows concept for stacked townhomes at large scale
12:46:50 From Sarah Woodgate to Everyone:
where is CMHC revenue transitioned to general revenue? would a good step be to redirect all funds and profit from CMHC into housing programs to address critical gaps in the housing system.
12:46:54 From Ethan Gottesman-Kaplun to Everyone:
@Paul I have seen research that suggests the price effects of increased supply are more significant than the demand effects of neighbourhood improvements from greater density (at least when it comes to rent prices). I’d be interested to see evidence to the contrary. Although for land value in particular I think you’re correct
12:47:04 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Ugly housing is so subjective.
12:47:10 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@kira in reply to “Their role should stick to land use policies that enable non-market housing development and govern market development.” The problem is there is little to no funding for non-market housing and lots and lots of money for market development. Not to sound jaded but many municipalities are bought by developers, not to mention Mr. Ford and Ontario PCs
12:47:10 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
We should not ignore political issues regarding housing.
12:47:11 From Carol Cochrane to Everyone:
Manufactured housing doesn’t have to be ugly … look at what Singapore is doing with high end hotels being built using the manufactured module model.
12:47:20 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
if big developers are doing this to make max profit, federal govt can do it better, higher quality, and do it to work towards affordability instead of putting it in one rich guys pocket.
12:47:36 From Lisa Helps to Everyone:
Re nice looking modular housing:
12:47:39 From Charles Finley to Everyone:
Housing is an excellent example, as Mary points out, of an opportunity for us to develop new (or revisit) models of multi-jurisdictional approaches to a vital problem like housing – i.e. a Neo-federalism – what is old can be new again with a new perspective for 21st century realities.
12:47:44 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
I do not think we can ever go back to the old Federalism.
12:47:51 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Stephen: Why not?
12:48:17 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
The CityTalk chat is as lively as ever. Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb #citytalk The chat transcript will also be available along with the recording and 5 takeaways next week at
12:48:23 From Matthew Pelletier to Everyone:
A modular build opened down my street in Charlottetown (CMHA supportive housing), and it’s quite nice looking! That should be the bar for future projects.
12:48:35 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Politicians do not want that. The provinces do not want their rights taken from them by the Feds.
12:48:37 From Almos Tassonyi to Everyone:
Agree with Mike on old Federalism and the need to revisit various constraints on municipal fiscal capacity including access to capital and borrowing rules
12:48:46 From Ignacio Gimenez-Rebollo to Everyone:
Still feels difficult to standardize and try to scale up designs (ugly or not) when regulations are so different from place to place. The same design might work in TO but not in BC and so forth.
12:49:00 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
@Matthew I have one going up across the street from me in Toronto, many being built right now as social housing. I love them! They’re a great solution and more affordable and fast to build too
12:49:07 From Sarah Woodgate to Everyone:
The federal government created the social housing left today and is no longer funding the required operating deficit funding to provinces.
There is no social housing program. We are losing social housing and there is no housing replacing this as well as rental rates are higher than ownership based on income in Calgary.
12:49:16 From Reg Nalezyty to Everyone:
Right on. I have a copy of CMHC “Small House Designs” circa 1960 where CMHC hired architects across Canada to produce designs and documents for 1000 – 1200 sf homes that could be purchased for about $10 at the time. You can recognise those houses in cities across Canada. Nothing to prevent Small House (and Apartments) Designs 2 to be commissioned.
12:49:24 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
no brainer- cheaper cash means greater ability to actually make a go of the project.
12:50:22 From Mark Roseland to Everyone:
@Michael Brooks is right – 5-year mortgages are nuts
12:50:26 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@Ethan are you familiar with Sick City by Patrick Condon at UBC?
12:50:44 From Nadine Tischhauser to Everyone:
Couldn’t CMHC or private companies look at all the empty federal buildings in cities (with no workers) and convert those office spaces into housing. Reuse existing buildings and bring folks living downtown again near public transportation, similar to all European cities.
12:50:49 From Scott Carnall to Everyone:
does this help with labour shortage
12:50:51 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Paul: Condon’s not well-regarded by economists
12:51:05 From Stephan Richard to Everyone:
Removing GST would simply increase profit margins of developers. Govt could commit to using that GST and reinvesting that amount to subsidize some units for low-income households
12:51:16 From Tenzin Khangsar to Everyone:
Thoughts on new pathways to attainable homeownership for renters? While subsidized rentals are important part of the housing continuum…shouldn’t there be more innovation other than subsidized rentals and market rentals/ownership?
12:51:21 From Dave Hall to Everyone:
We also need to work on soaring operational costs. One example: Insurance increases are not manageable.
12:51:27 From Sarah Woodgate to Everyone:
An issue is the fiscal framework for municipalities does not align with the services needed in big and medium cities. Municipalities are well positioned to deliver housing however do not have funding sources to provide services related to income distribution. Cities require a new fiscal framework and this is being seen in many areas including homelessness and housing as well as health services addictions and mental health. Canada may also need to look at starting new cities which other countries have done.
12:51:41 From Ann McAfee to Everyone:
Looking to the past, housing was seen as serving a dual function. Housing provided homes for people. Plus, housing was seen as an economic multiplier to stimulate the whole economy. This widened the tent of people supporting housing initiatives.
12:51:55 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
@Russil economists generally are not well regarded by me
12:52:03 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Stephan: redevelopment projects only happen if the value of the new building minus costs (including taxes) exceeds the value of the existing property. If costs are too high, projects don’t happen at all. Anything that reduces costs – including taxes – helps
12:52:04 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
if they remove tax they should raise the length of time they need to provide non-rental housing in cmhc funding
12:52:08 From Tenzin Khangsar to Everyone:
Ontario now has a dedicated Associate Minister for Attainable Housing and Modular Homes!
12:52:19 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
What is attainable? Hmmmm
12:52:23 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Municipalities are creatures of the provinces. They can approve or reject whatever measure a city puts forth.
12:52:37 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Jasmine “cheaper” (or maybe “less expensive”)
12:52:39 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
General question- the supply argument is often founded entirely on an infinite market demand model. Do you think this is actually the case or is there a ceiling to this through the implementation of the tools?
12:52:41 From Carley Friesen to Everyone:
Yes, and in Sweden many of those homes are municipal owned. They are not subsidized, but they are owned by the municipality.
12:52:58 From Anton Burdin to Everyone:
No private company would increase supply in the anticipation of price decrease. So, the government should start building/buying.
12:53:10 From Carley Friesen to Everyone:
We need this model in Canada. As long as housing is an investment vehicle it will never be seen as a human right.
12:53:24 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
I can see the province of Ontario reject the proposal of taking away the HST from building rental housing.
12:53:31 From Sally Ledger to Everyone:
great conversation 🙂 unfortunately i can’t read fast enough to get all the chat comments…lol
12:53:32 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
@Russil – sure? or is it political? i.e. the Minister could be called “Minister of Rental and Social Housing Production”
12:53:34 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
I have seen modular be an excellent option for Toronto and non-profit providers providing housing for those living in poverty. However, I worry that the “affordability” created for private developers has no incentive to trickle down to tenants, but simply increase their ROI
12:55:10 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
Also sometimes the CMHC requirements clash with municipal or provincial requirements and it kills any projects in that area
12:55:35 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
So if we make building and operating cheaper for private landlords, how can we guarantee that will translate to more affordable housing? Why wouldn’t they just line their pockets with the savings, rather than rent below market in these inflated markets?
12:55:51 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
Could the federal government strike a policy that required any banks doing business in our country to allocate a portion (say…1%) of their book to financing non-market housing as a condition of operating here – at cost? Secured by CMHC so all the supposed “risk” of developing affordable housing is managed?
12:55:57 From Dustin Carey to Everyone:
I think there is a great synergy option being discussed here (albeit one requiring fed/prov leadership). The reintroduction of pre-approved housing plans like the 1960s plans CMHC approved, adopted through provincial legislation for all adequately sized lots, could be a boon for modular housing
12:56:01 From Paul Degner to Everyone:
Get the idea of either the government or private developers subsidizing rents. In either case more money flows to private developers. If the government was to give everyone $5K per month to cover rent, you can be every dime of that would go to developers by way of rent increases. If the private developers are to be responsible for creating affordable (by any definition) units then they end up getting some kind of subsidy. THIS is the problem.
12:56:02 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
Unless more changes, the as-of-right additional dwelling units simply enriches the current home/land owner.
12:56:08 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
@Kate: higher vacancy rates would help
12:56:48 From Cathy Crowe to Everyone:
BTW TMU (formerly Ryerson) initiating an urban planning special interest course on the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood to highlight why we can and did do in the past and it’s not modular. It’s mixed income including public housing, market, co-op and supportive.
12:57:01 From Tim Richter to Everyone:
There are at least 20 federal departments implicated in homelessness policy
12:57:12 From Keir Brownstone to Everyone:
Modular, heat pump energy provided, built on top of main artery 2 and 3 story buildings. Net zero, affordable, on transit.
12:57:17 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
Sounds like we need a housing czar who’s got the power to make things happen across different ministers
12:57:21 From Almos Tassonyi to Everyone:
It remains to be seen whether the interest of the Province of Ontario is on greenfield development or a willingness to use MZO.s to facilitate brown field and inner city space as well as providing any realistic policy on the issue of the “mature municipality syndrome”=- these issues are not just Ontario specific
12:57:28 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways within a week at
12:57:32 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
If you have any questions you would like us to follow up on, please send them to
12:57:50 From Tenzin Khangsar to Everyone:
CMHC is both policy making and transaction. BDC and EDC, even CBC as crown corps..are they making policy on industry, trade and culture?
12:57:56 From Mark Roseland to Everyone:
Kudos to CUI for a stimulating session – this level of “chat engagement” is impressive!
12:58:04 From Jordan Farber to Everyone:
Probably not a popular opinion, but CMHC Co-Investment should focus purely on the affordability component and lower the bar on energy efficiency/accessibility. It’s already very difficult to make these projects viable but with the additional costs associated with energy/accessibility, it makes even more challenging.
12:58:12 From Russil Wvong to Everyone:
If anyone wants to get in touch with your local YIMBY group, you can reach me via
12:58:42 From Sarah Woodgate to Everyone:
Thanks for this conversation today Mary Carolyn, Tim, Michael and Mike! This was very generative with lots of ideas on reimagining the housing system. It would be great to understand how to capture and deliver these ideas for a better future for Canada. It all starts now.
12:58:43 From adriana dossena to Everyone:
Post war cmhc housing efforts had skills training not limited to youth – transition was intergenerational, intersectional, interdisciplinary as was access to resources, mentorship and continuity planning to grow capacity at all levels from policy to financing that attracted and grew intercultural development models (eg. Interfaith with schools & amenity spaces, community housing with various models such as St. Lawrence hood with coops, walkability, mixed use/income etc)
12:58:46 From Linda Weichel to Everyone:
And lots of land owned by faith and educational institutions!
12:58:47 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
Thank you so much for this opportunity to listen to all of the fabulous panel! Great way to start my morning, with thought Gratitude and have a great day
12:58:56 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
I was in a solutions lab that determined prefabricated modular housing was one of the only ways to reasonably bypass affordability while still addressing sustainability. the issue was that it needs massive volume to make it work. we were thinking prefab warehouses should be owned provincially and distributed across their provinces
12:59:08 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
Churches have lots of land and have been tax free forever!
12:59:15 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Join us on September 18 for CityTalk – Civic institutions in Main Streets and Downtowns: What is their role in supporting the social determinants of health? This session will be hosted live from the Art of City Building Conference in Halifax:
12:59:15 From Tim Richter to Everyone:
Speaking of land and federal role I strongly encourage people to read this idea:
12:59:19 From Charles Finley to Everyone:
Thanks for the great conversation on this key issue
12:59:20 From Stuart Kehrig to Everyone:
For example in Edmonton — The City has offered free land to non profit affordable housing provides. However, that contribution is not enough catalyst to redevelop affordable housing on its own. Additional grants or very cheap access to capital is needed
12:59:23 From Archana Vyas to Everyone:
lands by faith groups should be leveraged
12:59:24 From Matthew Pelletier to Everyone:
Another issue from a data standpoint is that what Statistics Canada defines as “investors” or “investor properties” is pretty vague, covering any properties owned by government, vacant/seasonal lots in rural communities, and basically all rentals that are not owned by non-profits. Like with core housing need, what actually constitutes “housing financialization” needs a rethink as well.
12:59:24 From Steve Pomeroy to Everyone:
Land – issue is finance and treasury policies that require getting full market value
12:59:36 From Romy Bowers to Everyone:
Thanks Mary & CUI. A great session
12:59:39 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Registration is now open for CUI’s Annual Convening on the State of Canada’s Cities in Ottawa on Nov. 30:
12:59:44 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
We are proud partners of the Liveable Cities Forum taking place in Mississauga Sept. 25-27. There is still time to register!
12:59:45 From Linda Weichel to Everyone:
Thank you!
12:59:54 From Stephanie Daye to Everyone:
Compulsive land purchase… interesting thought
12:59:56 From Matthew Pelletier to Everyone:
great work to CUI and panelists 🙂
12:59:59 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
I am at home with no mask.
12:59:59 From Kathleen Dale to Everyone:
Smaller municipalities do not always have available municipal land that can be used for housing.
13:00:00 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
Land is critical– check out these 33 recommendations for more housing in YYC!
13:00:00 From Beverley Bradnam to Everyone:
Thank you for all your work on this!
13:00:00 From Lynda Chubak to Everyone:
Thanks for offering some hope.
13:00:01 From Cathy Crowe to Everyone:
Thankyou and folks mask indoors.
13:00:02 From Jasmine Tranter to Everyone:
Public lands are managed by Realty Directives, which are strict and then depend on political decision-making, so its a solution in progress. THANK YOU! GREAT PANEL.
13:00:04 From Alexandra Shannan to Everyone:
Thanks for this, great conversation and great (fast-moving) chat.
13:00:09 From Dina Graser to Everyone:
Thanks to the panelists for an excellent report and to CUI for a great session.
13:00:09 From Cathy Crowe to Everyone:
Right on Tim.
13:00:10 From Carol Cochrane to Everyone:
13:00:10 From Anne Marie Aikins to Everyone:
This was incredible…thank you
13:00:13 From Lisa Helps to Everyone:
Thank you all! I love the coming together that has led to this powerful accord.
13:00:16 From Stephanie Daye to Everyone:
Thanks for this. Must go. Great chat.
13:00:17 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter:
13:00:20 From Steve Gillespie to Everyone:
my first City Talk event… very good!!!
13:00:20 From Abby Slater (she/her) to Everyone:
Thank you. Glad you are back!!
13:00:21 From Kate Bradford to Everyone:
Thank you all, very interesting!
13:00:21 From Susan Henry to Everyone:
Great session. Thanks
13:00:29 From Anna Kirbyson to Everyone:
Thanks for a great session!
13:00:30 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
Bravo – a heavy and important lift!
13:00:32 From Kirk Whittal to Everyone:
Well Done! Great discussion.
13:00:33 From Stephen Marano to Everyone:
Thank you for the session.
13:00:42 From Celia Chandler to Everyone:
Great session – thanks to CUI.
13:00:43 From Keir Brownstone to Everyone:
Metrolinx refused to build affordable housing, TCH has acres of land that it has sold to developers for pennies on the dollar to build condo’s with 0 additional social housing units. Land is not an issue, just political will.
13:00:53 From Kirsten Frankish to Everyone:
Another excellent session! Thanks all!
13:00:54 From Colm Holmes to Everyone:
13:00:59 From Annie Hodgins to Everyone:
Thank you, this was a great discussion.
13:01:06 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways within a week at Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter:
13:01:10 From Teresa Goldstein to Everyone:
I love Mike’s comments! Armchair lawyers and planners!
13:01:10 From Dave Hall to Everyone:
And dodgeball is real sport!
13:01:12 From Kira Gerwing to Everyone:
Great sessions – let’s go get ‘er done!
13:01:15 From Annie Sudeyko to Everyone:
13:01:22 From Rob Franklin to Everyone:
great talk
13:01:26 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
13:01:28 From Almos Tassonyi to Everyone:
thank you
13:01:29 From Harvey Cooper to Everyone:
Thanks for a tremendous session!
13:01:30 From Barb Dupuis to Everyone:
Thank you!
13:01:31 From Hannah Brais to Everyone:
🙌 great talk!
13:01:33 From Kristina Bell to Everyone:
Thanks! That was great
13:01:47 From Brenda Burjaw to Everyone:
Great conversation, housing is everyone’s issue to find a solution for.
13:01:48 From Diane Dyson to Everyone:
<3 Libraries!
13:01:50 From Eric Cuillerier to Everyone:
Fantastic discussions today! Thank you to the panelists !
13:01:58 From Hilary L. Marks to Everyone:
Nice to see you all!!!!
13:02:04 From Holden Blue to Everyone:
Great as usual and inspiring! Have a great day everyone
13:02:08 From Tara McCashin to Everyone:
this is very energizing. thank you so much to all of you!
13:02:08 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Registration is now open for CUI’s Annual Convening on the State of Canada’s Cities in Ottawa on Nov. 30:
13:02:11 From Anton Burdin to Everyone:
Thank you!
13:02:19 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) to Everyone:
Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways within a week at Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter: