Solving for Supply: Shared Challenges and Opportunities

In this candid conversation, panellists with differing perspectives discussed the perceived benefits and potential implications of supply-side solutions to housing affordability.

5 Key

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

1. The need for supply

All of the panellists identified a lack of adequate housing supply as a significant factor in Canada’s current affordability crisis. The panellists cited several specific issues with housing supply during the previous 25 years: too few units built, not enough diversity in the types of units built, the reduction in government funding for social housing, financial restrictions for not-for-profit organizations, and zoning obstacles for developers. As the proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.” With that spirit, the panellists suggested actionable strategies that could immediately ramp up Canada’s housing supply.

2. Leveraging the balance sheets 

Kira Gerwing, the Chief Real Estate Investment Officer at Sacha Investments Ltd, described a model that would position community housing providers as the delivery agent of choice for all affordable housing that gets built in Canada. If the investment from different levels of government went into stabilizing the balance sheets of not-for-profit housing operators (or developers, asset managers and property managers structured as not-for-profits), there would be an incredible opportunity to leverage those balance sheets. With a robust set of assets on the books, not-for-profit housing operators could have greater capacity and flexibility to purchase additional new homes and also acquire aging rental properties that are being lost and redeveloped into market housing.

3. Buffering against interest rate hikes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries reduced lending rates to record-low levels. Over the last few months, interest rates have jumped; moreover, experts expect rates to continue rising throughout 2022-23. To support the not-for-profit housing sector in this current environment, Lilian Chau, the CEO of Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society in Vancouver, advocated for CMHC to cap their interest rates for their programs at 2-2.5%. A rate cap could be considered not as a loss, but as a tactical investment back into the not-for-profit housing sector.

4. Navigating around NIMBYs and NIMTOs

Most people are familiar with NIMBYism, the “Not In My Back Yard” tendency for people to oppose new housing density in their neighbourhoods. Murtaza Haider, Professor of Real Estate Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, explained the impact of NIMTOs — “Not In My Term of Office” municipal councillors who might support new developments but remain beholden to their voting base of homeowners. Increasing supply in existing urban communities requires interventions that support developers’ ability to create new housing of various types and scales: implementation of as-of-right zoning policies, consideration for taller projects, and streamlining of approval processes.

5. Building for future sustainability

Ene Underwood, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area, referenced a Haudenosaunee philosophy which guides leaders to consider how their decisions will impact seven generations into the future. With that idea in mind, Ene articulated the importance of developing strategies that not only address immediate-term housing need, but also support long-term sustainability goals. For example, how might new housing developments interface with current and planned transit systems and environmental targets. Furthermore, definitions of “affordable” housing shift over time, so plans should maintain flexibility to deal with evolving home prices, tax implications, and governmental fees into the future.


Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe: [00:17:09] Hi, everybody. It’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. Thrilled to be back on CityTalk here from a very steamy Toronto. I don’t know where you’re all coming in from, but one of the things we ask you to do, first of all, is to just acknowledge for us where you are coming in from. If you want to tell us who you’re affiliated with or if you’re just yourself, that’s fine too. It helps us to be able to know who’s tuning in and where, what your particular sectoral background is, so if you’ve got a minute please do that. Canadian Urban Institute is a national, pan-Canada thing, but it’s based in Toronto – at least the head office is, and that happens to be where I am, as I was lamenting the humidity, which is the traditional territory of a number of Metis, First Nation,  and Indigenous peoples, specifically the Mississauga’s of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnabeg and the Chippewa. We are constantly trying to evaluate our relationship as settlers with the traditions and the history and the exclusion that urbanism has perpetuated and continues to struggle with. So we always say at the beginning that we’re trying to find ways to do land acknowledgments that are more than just rote recitations of who actually own this land and owns this land, but also how are we actually facing truth and reconciliation, both of those things. One of the sessions that we’re doing on housing is going to be specifically on the Indigenous challenges in Indigenous communities and the Indigenous perspective on housing. So we’re very appreciative to have everybody here to talk about a very topical thing, which is what is the role of supply. It’s become a meme, I would say now a year ago. I don’t know if we were all preoccupied with whether it’s about supply, it’s about supply, but now every conversation seems to be about supply. Around the dinner table behind me last night, it was all about people saying, people not from our world either, not from the city building world particularly, preoccupied with supply. So this has seized the imagination and I think the conscience of people engaged in city life and whether they’re setting policy or they’re experiencing this, if they’re experiencing homelessness or they have friends or family who are or they have children, they’re not quite sure where their kids are going to live, all that kind of thing. It seems to be a resonant conversation and it’s become even a meme, so here we are to start our sessions on where we are in housing at an extraordinarily tumultuous time, with interest rates changing and governments at each level grappling with this. We’re appreciative to have joining us four folks who are going to speak very specifically about their particular perspective on supply and the role that supply plays in addressing this fundamental challenge. So I’m going to ask them to turn their cameras on. And as you know, as is our practice here at City Talk, we put people’s bios in the chat as so you’ll be able to hear more about them. I’m going to start early by just asking them to give us a bit of a thumbnail about what their particular vantage point is around this, and then once they’ve done that, then we’ll have a conversation amongst us. And I threatened to go west to east and so I’m going to start with Kira, because you get rewarded here because you’re on your first cup of coffee. Kira is joining us, well actually why don’t each of you identify where you’re joining from?  I’ll start with you, Kira. So over to you, go.  

Kira Gerwing: [00:20:42] Thanks so much, Mary. I’m coming to all of you today from the Unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations commonly known as Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve been working in the affordable housing sector for about 25 years now. I guess these lines under my eyes prove that. And about 15 years ago, we started to do some deep insights gathering into the issue of supply. And I guess what I would offer to open the conversation up is that in those early days, we found that supply was happening in one of two ways. The first way was through government programs when we just had them through our provincial housing agency, which we referred to as BC housing. So B.C. housing still had funding programs back when the federal government was out of the housing supply program. And so housing would get supplied through that or it would get supplied through negotiations of community amenity contributions, through rezonings or development permissions that were being brokered between municipalities and market developers. But in both of those transactions, we saw a player missing from the program, and that player was the not-for-profit housing operators who ultimately then received those buildings and continued to operate them, sometimes under fixed term operating agreements and more rarely under an ownership model. And so when we discovered that kind of gap in the system, we turned our focus, when I worked at Vancity Credit Union, to designing a program that specifically positioned community housing providers to be the delivery agent of choice for all affordable housing that got built in Canada. And I just want to paint this future imaginary for you. Imagine if all of the investment that is now coming from the federal government, that continues to come from the provincial government, all of the assets that are secured through community amenity contributions and other negotiations between developers and municipalities – imagine if all of that resource went into stabilizing the balance sheets of not-for-profit housing operators, preferably actually developers, asset managers and property managers structured as not-for-profits. The advantage of that being that they can then, into the future, leverage those balance sheets. So borrow against a much more robust set of assets than what we currently understand for not-for-profit financial statements. In that model, there does come a time in the future when the need for the kind of subsidy that we’re doing right now lowers and probably stabilizes so that government can focus where,  personally I think they should be focused, which is delivering housing for those most vulnerable in our communities and targeting all of our taxpayer dollars rather than into the whole breadth of affordable housing from, you know, deep core need housing all the way through to barely below market affordable rental. Instead of trying to attack every stage along that continuum, imagine instead if we could targeted the most vulnerable because we’ve empowered and stabilized the balance sheets of our not-for-profit housing developers so that they can actually just go to any bank like any other developer does to finance into the future. That doesn’t happen right now in Canada, but it does happen as best practices in other cities. So this isn’t a new idea. It’s practiced and well-understood for decades in cities like Vienna, Singapore. It used to be Hong Kong. I can’t speak to what happened when they reverted back into the Chinese government. But there are examples of this from around the world. And the last thing I’ll say, Mary, is and I think I said this to you many, many months ago, but, you know, out of all of the things that we’ve been trying to solve, the affordable housing supply problem in our country, this is the one thing we haven’t tried in earnest yet. So I feel like the fact that that is the one thing we haven’t tried makes it a very compelling thing to try in the age of innovation for our nation.  

Mary Rowe: [00:25:19] It’s interesting to focus, as you’re suggesting on, I mean, instead of dickering about whether supply is a crisis or not, saying, well why don’t we build the capacity of a particular sector that we think can nimbly respond and create more? So it’s a very interesting point. And also the balance sheet piece, I’m sure there are economists in our midst who are going to throw some comments in about this, about who can carry the balance sheet or not. I know that Alan Broadbent from Maytree has been saying, why isn’t the federal government treating, why aren’t they getting back into actually building and owning housing and then carried on their balance sheet? So I’ll expect people with a finer knowledge about bookkeeping and ledgers to weigh in on this in the chat. But thanks Kira, we’ll come back to you. And let’s stay in the West. Lilian, let’s go to you next in terms of your perspective, and then we’ll come east to the two folks that are in steamy Toronto. Go ahead. And thanks for also just a reminder, when you’re putting stuff in the chat, folks, figure that little toggle switch to say, “Everyone”, not just “Host and panelists”. Let’s make sure everybody sees the intelligence you are offering in the chat. Okay, Lilian, over to you.  

Lilian Chau: [00:26:24] Good morning, everybody, from Vancouver. I’m coming to you from the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watuth peoples otherwise known as Vancouver. And, you know, thanks for having me bringing a community housing sector perspective and some of the things I’m probably going to touch on back here already touched on as well. But you know, from our perspective, why are we interested in this? Obviously Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, we’re a charitable nonprofit. We provide affordable housing to women, single parent families, seniors and people with disabilities and actually started 35 years ago because a group of single mothers decided that they could not find housing for folks like themselves. And they decided to actually create an organization to create that affordable housing. So 35 years later, we are across 11 properties and across four municipalities in Metro Vancouver. And so what we’re seeing is that there is still a significant need for particular groups of folks, especially in that core housing need. And going back to that question about supply, obviously we’re interested in growing the nonprofit sector to provide more affordable housing similar to what Kira had said. But I think historically, you know, if the answer was just supply and the market could just supply the diversity of housing for Canadians, historically, the data doesn’t substantiate that. Right. So from the nonprofit housing sector perspective, you know, there was a significant federal and provincial investment in social housing in the sixties all the way to 1990s. At that point in time, 14% of all new homes were actually social housing at that time. When the federal government de-invested in that, actually in the mid-1990s to now, we are only seeing an actual growth of 1% in social housing. So that tells you that the market isn’t going to supply a certain type of housing unless it’s a response to profits and different things. And so you cannot rely on the market solely to do that. I think that’s definitely where the nonprofit housing sector comes in. Currently in Canada, we have 13% of our population are actually in core housing need. And what core housing need means is that 13% of Canadians cannot find affordable housing that is adequate to their household size and suitable for their needs. Right now we only have 6% of Canada’s housing that is social housing and co-op housing. So we actually need to double the amount of social and co-op housing in order to actually meet that core need. So I’ll probably talk a little bit about that as you do your further questions. But certainly we’re seeing that, you know, supply isn’t about, you know, housing is getting unaffordable to everybody. And I’d heard that term widely used. It’s hitting middle income folks as well as vulnerable folks. However, we do need to look at the supply and look at the particular type of supply. Otherwise, you’re not actually meeting the needs of Canadians, especially that 13%, and you’re not creating affordability for middle income earners either, if policies and funding programs are just very generalized. You do need to desegregate the data to ensure that we have equitable access to housing in Canada.  

Mary Rowe: [00:29:45] I mean, this is one of the challenges about, and I’m going to come to you next Murtaza because you have books behind you, which means you must be very thoughtful about this, about what the data tells us. But also and, you know, one of the challenges we’ve got I think, those of us that are in this realm, is where should we be focusing our energies and where should the resources be focused?  Kira made a case for focusing in the not-for-profit sector, build the not-for-profit development community to build more housing. Lilian you’re saying those in core housing need, we haven’t been building social housing in three decades. What’s going on? Could we alleviate the pressure if we if we invested there? Would that be it? I want to come next to you at the now newly named Metropolitan University. What’s your perspective? And then Ene we’ll go to you last. So go ahead, Murtaza.  

Murtaza Haider: [00:30:34] Thank you. I teach in the Department of Real Estate Management at the Toronto Metropolitan University. I’m currently based in Mississauga right now, and I’ve been studying this housing supply since 1996 in the Canadian context. And if I remember correctly, it was just myself and Mike Boselli, who’s now a professor at Western University. We actually studied housing supply as the focus of their doctoral dissertations.  And my reason for studying supply, and as early as mid-nineties, was that the planning profession, I found, had a pejorative view of homebuilders of the supply sector, and it was never seen as people who were providing new housing and shelter for Canadians. And the discourse hasn’t changed over the last 30 years, as far as I have reviewed documents and literature. So my own focus has been on supply, primarily because the data that we have, it’s the same data that everyone has, suggests that we forgot to build enough housing. And I’ll put some numbers in place, in perspective. In the early seventies in Canada, we were building something like 12,000 new homes per million people. So that’s the early 1970s. 12,000 new homes, per million people. By nineties, mid-nineties, that number went down to about 6000 or 4000 new homes per million people. And now it’s between 5000 to 6000 new homes. So you could effectively see that the rate of construction since the 1970s has declined significantly. So we continue to grow in population primarily because of immigration, but our rate of new housing construction has declined. At the same time, we found every other excuse other than supply to say demand is a problem. Foreign homebuyers are the problems. Money laundering is a problem. But we never go and address the main issue – that we have not been building enough housing. And of the housing that we have been building, most of it is multiple, residential, that is low rise and high rise housing, and the supply of ground oriented housing is a small proportion of the housing that we are building right now. So of the 280,000 new homes that we expect to build in this year, about 60,000/65,000 will be low rise. The rest will be multiple residential units. So not only that we are not building enough, we are building housing of the type that’s not really suitable for young families and, at the same time, purpose-built rental housing, that is housing that provides a security of tenure, that also disappeared since the early seventies when the two changes were brought. One of them was the capital gains tax that was imposed also on purpose-built rented construction and housing without any indexing for inflation. So these are the issues. These are some of them are structural, some of them are systematic, some of them could easily be fixed. What I hear from the panel is it’s true, we have not built social housing over the years, but I think social housing is the responsibility of the state and the state should step forward. But we should not assume that independent landlords or businesses have the responsibility to provide social housing. There could be public/private partnerships, but what continues to be and should be the role of the government should not be offloaded to others because the governments collect funds and taxes for this very purpose. And therefore, I do value and support that we should be building more social housing. No one should fear for security of tenure or affordability in Canada. There’s so much wealth. But the right agencies and agents should be responsible for the provision and construction and maintenance of new housing. I am, the last one, a bit worried about increasing the portfolio of social housing and keeping it in the hands of the government. Someone who would go and visit a housing stock maintained by public sector would know that it is not maintained in a state of good order and some of it is not even livable. And therefore we need extra measures, maybe the not-for-profit sector, to be able to keep these social housing dwellings in a state of good repair so that people can live safely there. Thank you.  

Mary Rowe: [00:35:08] Thank you. And listen, I appreciate your point that you’ve been at it since you did your Ph.D. So thanks for your steadfast vigilance about tracking this issue. One of the things we’ve noticed at CUI, and we’ve asked some of our colleagues about this is, it seems as if, as you suggest, in the seventies, something happened in Canada and we dropped our level of focus. And so there haven’t been as many academics tracking this as maybe we would have needed to. And so you’re carrying that banner forward and we appreciate you’re doing it for that reason, to keep this discussion informed by evidence. And I want to come back to some of the points you make, but one of them that I’m really struck by, and which we notice, is there tends to be a lot of blaming on this, around this, topic and a lot of people blaming other orders of government or, as you suggested, a real lack of trust in the development sector. And similarly, what we hear are lots of people who are going to blame municipal government. And it just seems to be the order of the day to just blame somebody as opposed to actually finding what our collective way forward is. So Ene I’m going to come to you next. You come from the not-for-profit sector, obviously, but you also just finished a stint with the provincial government’s task force. So I’m interested in your perspective from your own professional life, but also this task force you’ve just completed, or maybe it’s still going on, but that you were sitting on. Thanks.  

Ene Underwood: [00:36:28] Yeah. So as you said, I come at this from a few directions. So I’m CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Greater Toronto Area. And so wearing that hat, globally our mission is about supply. You know, we started more than 40 years ago in the United States out of a view that, you know, everyone in the world should have an adequate, decent, safe place to live and so and we don’t have that. And so we come from this, you know, just this very personal for us on a habitat level. We’re entirely about the adequacy of people having a place to live. And for us in particular, not just a place to live, but we’re an ownership model. So being able to use that adequate place to raise your family as also a place to build generational wealth and therefore the possibility of the next generation doing even better. And, you know, not surprisingly, as people would anticipate, as housing prices have gone up at ever increasing rates, a challenge for us is who we are serving has also changed. So we are absolutely now serving some families who ten years ago could have been able to buy a house on their own but cannot today. So that’s part of my motivation around supply and this issue. Then, as Mary said, I had the opportunity to probably spend about 50% of my time exclusively thinking about supply during the month of December, January and February as one of the members of this Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, which was unapologetically and by mandate, focused on supply. Not out of a view that supply is the only solution because it has to be part of a bigger portfolio. But it’s a critical solution. And Murtaza referred to, you know, some of the stats, and I have a feeling everyone listening to this webinar knows, you know, we’re last out of the G7 countries in terms of the number of homes we have for our population. And we are incredibly slow at building homes. It takes three times longer to build a home, to get a building permit here in Canada than in the U.S., four times as long than in Finland, in Denmark. So there’s lots of issues here. And wearing that hat of the housing task force, we were quite intentionally very bold in what we laid out for the Ontario government. And I’m sure we’ll come back to some of the themes in that. I would also say, you know, for me, you know, so I have the habitat perspective. I have a task force perspective. I think for all of us, this is very personal as well. You know, I’m in my late, I’m ending my fifties and had the opportunity to buy a home in the mid-nineties in Toronto for $254,000 and had housing prices in the subsequent 20 years grown at the same rate that they did in the previous, that house would be $428,000 today. But it’s a $1.7 million home. And it’s just so, as we all know, this is not fair. This does not lead us to productivity for people in their daily lives today, at home, at work, at school. And it definitely isn’t leading us in the direction of the kind of country we need to be from a prosperity, inclusion, fairness. So lots of stuff I’d love to talk about. I, I think people have touched on it. I’m keen to get back to the right kind of supply is a super important part of this conversation. And of course, you know, what can governments do? but honestly, what can all of us on this call, what more can we do? So, Mary, I’ll take it back to you. But lots of places I’m keen to continue to pursue.  

Mary Rowe: [00:40:05] Sometimes CityTalk feels like a broadcast, you know, back to you in the studio. You know, let’s all put our mikes on so we can have at it and let’s have a bit of a bun fight. And you know, there the chat is blowing up, as it often does, with people asking really good questions, which I’ll feed into you. And I’m hoping that just because we’ve lost Murtaza on the video doesn’t mean he’s left. Is he still, are you still there? Oh, you’re there. You’re allowed to turn your camera off. I had to briefly because I was dealing with a dog chewing something that they shouldn’t chewing. But here’s the interesting thing for me. I mean, I’m in your demographic – a little older than you, Ene, and I am struck by what you’re suggesting. But I remember when I was in my twenties and late twenties and thirties, it was hard for me to buy a house in Toronto, actually. And I bought outside first and then came in. But nowhere near what it is now. But one of the things that I think about is a lot of people rely on their residents as their retirement. And so there’s a whole constituency of Canadians whose interest is being served by the growing value of our homes, you know. So it’s very difficult to try to, as you suggest, if someone came to you and said, well Ene, you know what, the real value of your house is going to be 475,000 bucks. You’d like it, deep intake of breath, you know, and you’d say, well, how am I going to retire, etc.. So I know this is the dilemma, is that we could talk about it at these very, very macro levels. But let’s try to talk very specifically about this. What do you think the key interventions should be? If we’re agreed that the numbers that Murtaza just rolled through, which are phenomenal, that we are not producing the numbers of physical dwellings that we used to, even with the population growing. Kira, your first suggestion is, let’s put some money and build a proper nonprofit sector or a vibrant nonprofit sector. Some people in the chat asking about that because B.C. has done that. You have a more vibrant, not-for-profit sector than the rest of us seem to. And maybe it’s not a simple answer. Maybe it’s five things. But let’s see if we could come up with five amongst you guys. The five things that you think would boost supply. Go ahead, Kira.  

Kira Gerwing: [00:42:20] Well, just to be clear, I wouldn’t disagree with anything that anybody else has said. I think it should be focusing on the right supply by the right entities. And so the reason why I kind of went like this when you were saying that B.C. has built up a significant not-for-profit asset base is that it’s constrained. So there are these rules and regulations that come along with financing from B.C housing that limit the not-for-profits ability to leverage the value of their asset for the 25 years.  

Mary Rowe: [00:42:51] In a good way?  

Kira Gerwing: [00:42:53] No.  

Mary Rowe: [00:42:54] In a bad way. Okay. But you do have more of a sector. Some parts of the country have virtually two not-for-profit housing developers, and that’s it. At least you have a sector. But I hear you keep going.  

Kira Gerwing: [00:43:04] So and then the second piece of – so you adequately invest, you know, channel that financing in a way that allows the not-for-profit sector to act and feel like the market developers, like the market development sector does but with a motivation towards mission, not margin.  

Mary Rowe: [00:43:24] What would that look like? Tell me what that would look like if you didn’t have the –  

Kira Gerwing: [00:43:28] I’ll tell you a story. Okay. A couple of years ago, we had the Vienna model was brought to the Museum of Vancouver as part of the City of Vancouver’s Housing Strategy conversation. So it’s this nice, big planning engagement. And so I was working at Vancity still at that time, we had a whole bunch of folks from Vienna come into our head office on the top floor and talk about it. And one of our lenders asked one of the not-for-profit real estate developers from Vienna, “How do you secure a loan when you’re developing a new project?”. And she looked at him and she said, “I don’t think I understand your question. What do you mean, secure the loan?” And he’s like, “Well, how do we as a lender know that you’re good for it if we lend you €50 million to develop a new project somewhere in downtown Vienna?”. And she looked at him, she said, “We have a $500 billion balance sheet. What more security could you possibly need?”.  

Mary Rowe: [00:44:21] So the government is putting its balance sheet towards it. Somehow the rules enable that so that a modest, not-for-profit developer does not have to supply their own balance sheet.  

Kira Gerwing: [00:44:32] Well, it’s not it’s not the government supplying the balance sheet. What it what it was, was government allocating public land way back in the day to not-for-profit ownership. So it wasn’t retained as ownership by government. It was actually transferred to the not-for-profit sector. So they owned the land, and they own the asset. And just like, you know, if you want to refinance your mortgage to buy a second home in Muskoka, not-for-profits can do that. But instead of buying a second home to drink pink martinis, they can buy a second property to try to grow the number of homes that they are managing and to the point and to the point around vulnerable housing. The more homes that they have across a broad range, the more opportunity they have to cross-subsidize with higher rents from one place to lower rents in another.  

Mary Rowe: [00:45:24] So how – Lilian, I see your hand up. But Kira, before we leave you. So how would you operationalize that? I mean, I think you’re right, the Vienna person just thought you guys were crazy asking the question. But how do we do it now? Because we haven’t had that massive land transfer. What would you do now to get more land into those hands so they would have balance sheet.  

Kira Gerwing: [00:45:44] Exactly that. Transfer land to not-for-profits and adequately invest in them to build up their capacity to be effective, comparably effective property developers and asset managers. And if you adequately invest in them, you can pay their staff enough that market developers might want to move. You know, especially some of the senior development managers who right now are just making money for the owner. They still get to beg the deal and if they can do it and supply housing for Canadians, I think, well, in fact, I know that there are many people who would want to make that switch. They just need to get paid enough.  

Mary Rowe: [00:46:24] So first radical idea is that we’re going to build a balance sheet of not-for-profit housing developers so that they can actually do their work and finance as they require. And Mark Richardson saying, What about land trust? Good point, Mark. Maybe land trust is the vehicle to get this land over. Lilian, you had your hand up. Go for it.  

Lilian Chau: [00:46:39] Yeah. So, you know, we’re a nonprofit developer and we’ve been going through different funding cycles, etc. And obviously we can’t talk about affordable housing without talking about capital investment from federal, provincial and municipal governments. So I’ll give you an example here in B.C.. In 2021, the B.C. housing, we have a subsidized program called Community Housing Fund. It provides capital investments. It also provide an operating subsidies. So in 2021, 13,000 units applied to receive this funding. Only 2600 were actually approved. So that’s about 20% of all applications. So this tells me a couple of things. One, when you’re asking for supply in building more supply, the community housing sector in B.C. is answering that call. Right. So in B.C., actually, we have a deficit of about 11 – we need about 11,000 units to be built every year to actually meet the demand of social housing core needs and actually middle income housing. So, you know, if there was actually enough funding, let’s say we funded all 13,000, we would actually be able to keep up with that demand and actually be able to do that.  

Mary Rowe: [00:47:47] Where should that money come from, Lilian?  

Lilian Chau: [00:47:50] Yeah, I would say currently we need more capital investment from the federal government. So through their CMHC program. The capital investment currently there are actually very small. They will provide you with a very good loan term. So long amortization, 50 years, and generally a lower interest rate. However, as we’re seeing right now, when the Bank of Canada raises interest rates, it’s across the board. It affects all sectors and that certainly affects the nonprofit sector in order to actually get the financing that Kira is talking about and actually make the project work. The cost of borrowing right now is extremely expensive to the point where it’s almost impossible to provide rents that are probably about 50% below or 30% below market. Right? The nonprofit sector has to actually make that up, and that’s really difficult. So for me, the first one and we actually just recently had a roundtable with a number of nonprofit housing providers in the Lower Mainland, and these things came up, right? So in terms of providing more capital contributions, CMHC currently has revamped their co-investment contribution program to about 50 to $100000 a door. That is definitely needed, and we actually need more. In terms of equity, for these projects to actually work to create maybe at least a 30% affordability or even more, you’re looking at like 30%, you’re only be able to get service through your rental revenue  maybe 30%, maybe 20%. If you’re looking at really affordable rents, maybe 10% only. So you need actual capital investments in order to actually create that affordability in the type of housing that we’re doing. The other big thing is we need to buffer the nonprofit sector if we’re going to build in this current environment the next five years, buffer them from the interest rates increase. So we’re advocating for CMHC to actually cap their interest rates for their programs at maybe 2%, 2.5%. And consider that as an investment back into the sector, not as a loss. Right? We need that investment to actually make that work. And then Kira talked a little bit about, you know, can we acquire more lands and things like that. Here in B.C., we’ve been advocating for at least a $500 million acquisition fund. So that enables the nonprofit sector to actually purchase existing rental properties that are aging and are actually being lost and being redeveloped into market housing. This enables the nonprofit sector to do some land assemblies and actually, you know, really extract the most out of their properties in order to provide greater affordability. But we certainly, you know, in the sector, non-profits and charities don’t have a bunch of cash just kind of lying around. Right. We operate on a breakeven basis. That’s what you’re required to do as a charity to maintain your charitable status. But there is a real need for capital in the sector in order to actually do that investment, create more housing and actually get these units built. So I would love to see all 13,000 of those units to be approved each year and every year. If we had that, we’re actually going to keep up and actually provide that housing for, affordable housing for many, many more individuals and families.  

Mary Rowe: [00:50:57] All right. So in addition to these four smart folks that we’ve got, I can see on the chat, we’ve got 300 people here on this call, many of you, the ones who are sharing your names so I can see who you are, these are people who have been engaged in this sector trying to solve this Gordian knot for three decades some of you, and some more recently. But surely to goodness amongst us, we can figure out what’s the solution going forward. And what I always get frustrated by is if we just, you know, collectively lament the problem, can we move ourselves to the solution? So, Lilian, you’re talking about money. How do we get money? And I’m wondering, Murtaza, could you comment on this? Like, is there a way we all think, oh well it’s CMHC. Is it pension funds? Is it some other kind of mechanism to get capital? Kira’s working on this sort of social, on the innovation side with private philanthropy. Like there is money in the Canadian system, can we get it to where it needs to go to get us to produce the units we need? Murtaza, what do you think?  

Murtaza Haider: [00:52:02] Sure. I think first I would like to make a point that you have to divide this problem into at least two segments.  

Mary Rowe: [00:52:11] Okay.  

Murtaza Haider: [00:52:13] One is the social housing, and one is the housing supply for the market supplied housing. And the conversation that we are having so far is confined to the supply of social housing. That’s non-market housing. And the way I see it, the bigger problem is the supply of market based housing, which we have not been building, and there is a filtering mechanism that happens in the housing markets that you supply housing at any level of sophistication or price level, there is a filtering mechanism that happens. It’s better to supply at the middle or lower end of the market, but at least there’s a filtering mechanism. So if we continue to talk about the social housing, I think you will miss the 85 to 90% of the supply issue on hand, which is market based housing that people don’t have.  

Mary Rowe: [00:53:04] But Murtaza can you talk about both/and? Because I hear you and I know that in the sector there is a very animated advocacy constituency that are concerned about our most vulnerable, who experience this in a really profound way. But is there a way for us to have this conversation in tandem? And I guess one of the questions you’ll see in the chat is people don’t have a lot of trust that the market is actually creating the range of housing choice that it needs to. So I guess that would be a question for you as somebody watching the market, is there a way for the market to build a broader variety, to meet a broader constituency of need?  

Murtaza Haider: [00:53:43] So again, the market, I believe, is providing the kind of housing being demanded.  

Mary Rowe: [00:53:48] By some people, by some people.  

Murtaza Haider: [00:53:50] By majority, I would say. When you have 670,000 homes being sold in resale market in 2021 and about 200,000 new homes being sold, being bought I mean, which means that about a million Canadians were busy buying homes last year and about 550,000 the year before, including about 150 to 200000 new homes that were bought in 2020 or 2021. So what I’m trying to say is that there is a market that is functioning. We cannot ignore the bigger picture. But let me come back to the more important question that you asked, as to where the money should come from, could come from for social housing. I firmly believe that social housing is a serious challenge for us and we need to invest more. And the governments are doing it to some extent. Can pension funds be involved in it? The challenge is that even for market-based rental housing, when you have rent controls that limit or make it uncertain the future cashflows for investments and then investors would be very wary of that. If you invest in, let’s say, forget about even social housing, market-based rental housing, and then you have rent control systems that tells the, that signal to the developer that you can invest money, but your future cash flows are uncertain because of these regulations. Then you would see that money would not go into that direction. So what is the role of the state in that case? Whatever disadvantages that happen because of these uncertainties in future cash flows, those certainties could be provided by the government so that private capital could come in. My firm belief is that this supply issue cannot be resolved by the government alone, and this supply issue would only be resolved by a major influx of private sector involvement. And I say this because when I study the German housing market, especially after the war, there, many people are quite quick to mention that, “Look at Germany, there are a lot of people who rent there”. But what they fail to see is how that German housing market came about after the Second World War, and that is through the involvement of the private sector that the government provided certain guarantees and the private sector was involved in building those purpose built rental housing in others. So the government’s role should be not only to provide capital, but create the environments in which those guarantees for future cash flows could be created. So that risk is spread. And it’s not solely on the shoulders of lenders. The risk has to be borne by the but the government and the larger taxpayer.  

Mary Rowe: [00:56:34] And that’s what Lilian is saying, I mean she needs a buffer with these rising interest rates. You know, one of the things I forgot to say at the beginning is that we publish the chats for these sessions, and thank goodness we do, because honestly, the chat is blowing up, which is fantastic. And there are many, many people on this chat that have been in this, as I say, for many years and have lots of good solutions. So don’t hold back folks. Get your ideas and thoughts and responses into the chat in addition to what we’re talking about here. Go ahead, Ene.  

Ene Underwood: [00:56:58] So I’m going to keep coming at this from the government side, from the market and government side, because I am with Murtaza on the point that we have to be careful here that we’re not exclusively focused on social housing. And what I will also say is and as we all recognize, the reality is the market will not necessarily behave rationally in terms of the full spectrum of social needs. And that is where governments come in. And so what can the government do to cause the market to behave more rationally and in the process, create benefit for those of us that are delivering social and affordable housing? So the first is to make housing a priority. Because I haven’t been in housing for my whole career. I’ve been in it for about ten years. And what has been striking to me is a realization when we’re trying to get planning approvals is, oh, look, we’re last behind considerations around traffic, considerations around heritage, etc.. And so one of the things that the task force report was saying, first of all, in Ontario change the Planning Act so it is really clear that when from a planning approvals perspective, housing and housing in a term of dense and around transit corridors, etc., is a priority. So there’s you know number one of just –  let me then keep going because then the next thing I would say is also changing the balance of power. And this again, is the theme of our housing policy, at least in the province of Ontario, is disproportionately tilted towards people like me who already own a home. So government and again, this is where the notion of the province in Ontario, the province in particular, can be the adult in the room and depoliticize some of what happens on the ground municipal level. So the notion of the province setting the framework for things like as-of-right- housing. So, you know, part of that, of course, is exclusionary zoning. There’s no reason my neighborhood shouldn’t have multiple triplexes, multiple mid-rise in it, and the province can set that framework as part of as-of-right. The province can make it as-of-right everywhere in this province for there to be multi-unit dwellings so that I can’t go to a community meeting protesting a quote, “rooming house” if it’s made as-of-right. It is. Why shouldn’t we have opportunities for multi-tenant housing in all of our communities? So there’s some of those things. You know, in the task force report, we also talked about the Ontario Land Tribunal. They used to be the OMB. You know, again, disproportionately favors, makes the bar very low, for people to protest developments that are out there and that benefits people who are already established. It disadvantages people who don’t already have their homes. So there’s a number of these kind of framework things that government really can do. And I think I want then, Mary, just also jump to what gets built and maybe, Murtaza, this is where I might beg to differ somewhat is I’m not convinced that what’s getting built right now is the right thing to get built, not just for families today, but for the sustainability, for transit, environment, food supply, etc.. So I hear, you know, often the developers say, you know, we need more greenfield development for ground related single homes. That I’m going to, and it’s because they say that’s what the market wants. Yeah, that’s what the market wants. The market would also like to be able to do like – I’d love to do fireworks in my backyard on a long weekend and there’s reasons why that’s not the right thing. So I think the notion is the province can set a firmer framework around what gets built when we expand our urban boundaries. Again, apologies for the Ontario focus. In the province of Ontario, only 5% of our land is still zoned for agricultural. So, you know, talk to Ukraine, watch global food supply issues because of what’s happening in Ukraine right now. We have to think about food supply. We need to think about transit. We need to think about environment. And we need to shift what home looks and feels like for future generations in the communities that exist today and the communities we’re building for the future.  

Mary Rowe: [01:01:15] So Ene, I just want to push back a bit. Then I’m going to go to Lilian, who put her hand up there. You know, if we’re saying that, it takes too long. This is the limit, and you said it in your opening remarks, if it takes too long and I don’t know whether building permits is the same as actually getting something gone, because, in fact, lots of municipalities have got lots of permits that they’ve approved and the development still isn’t happening. But in that framework, where we’re all already lamenting it’s too long, and at the same time you’re saying, but we need to be building along transit lines, we need to be building sustainably, we need to not be consuming farmland. To constrain development, the market that Murtaza says is busy doing its thing, that does slow things down. So how do we square that? You know, and this is the anxiety people have, is that if we lift all these rules and we say have at it, then all hell is going to break loose and we’re going to lose the quality of our neighborhoods and we’re going to lose more greenspace.  Go ahead, Murtaza. But actually, Lilian had her hand up, so I want to go Lilian first, then Murtaza . Go ahead.  

Lilian Chau: [01:02:13] Thank you. Yeah, I guess a bit connected because going back to real estate development is a capital intensive endeavor, so you need that capital to do it. And I want to go back to a little bit about the pension balance. So, you know, the market is producing products because the market wants it. So I guess I would reframe then like what if the pension funds, which actually have a significant amount of cash and that includes rates, right? They need to park their money somewhere to have investments. I’m going to give you an example in B.C. and actually someone mentioned this in an Ontario example as well. So in B.C., we have a very large pension fund management company. They manage 11 public sector pension funds. That includes your municipal workers, teachers, universities, etc.. They own a real estate company because that’s how they’re going to invest their dollars. That real estate company owns a very large mall that’s currently being redeveloped, it’s called Oak Ridge. It’s in the west side of Vancouver. The land values there are extremely high and they’re going to redevelop that into about 3,300 units of both strata and rental housing. So I think to Murtaza, you know, this is both market and there’s also some about 290 social housing units there as well. So they’re trying to do both. So that social housing component with some rental housing, it’s about 9% of that affordable housing to provide on this property. Typically in other municipalities, we’re seeing inclusionary policies of up to at least 20%. So it kind of begs the question, why aren’t we extracting a bit more out of this significant development? They’re building actually luxury, like these are going to be quite expensive condos that are going to be sold. So why can’t we extract more? And, you know, funny enough, the pension plan, the members of this pension plan are the very same ones are saying that teachers cannot live in the –  

Mary Rowe: [01:04:14] Right, who want to actually – 

Lilian Chau: [01:04:16] Firefighters cannot do. Right. So the planners that are actually writing housing policy and creating policies for creating more affordable housing or are trying to adjust with the market. They’re also not able to afford, but their very own pension funds are actually trading, basically continuing to create housing as a commodity. Right. We’re financializing a commodity, as Ene said, you know, you’re raising property prices, you’re using it to, you know, have a nest egg after  you retire. But it’s ironic that, you know, given that there is supposed to be an environmental ESG kind of focus to those pension funds, would it not be, you know, what would the world look like if those pension funds were able to then create a goal that they’re going to invest in affordable housing, into housing that their members can actually live in?  

Mary Rowe: [01:05:09] So, listen, all those of you listening who work for a pension fund or who are a beneficiary of a pension fund, come into the chat and give us some insight here about how we can move this money differently. Murtaza and then Kira. Go ahead.  

Murtaza Haider: [01:05:22] I think the issue should be scale. If we were to focus on pilot projects, 500 units there or a thousand units there, then we realize that we have been doing that successfully for the past 50 years. What we haven’t done is supplying housing on a scale. That is to build maybe 400,000 to 500,000 dwelling units a year for several years consistently in Canada. That hasn’t happened. And once that happens, then the supply skeptics can come in if their desirable outcomes are not reached.  

Mary Rowe: [01:05:56] But how are you going to get to that? How are you going to get that quantum? I mean, short of the military coming in and we’ll all hate what they built. Like what? I mean, even our military probably couldn’t do it. Like, how do you get –  

Murtaza Haider: [01:06:07] We have 40,000 active forces. That’s –  

Mary Rowe: [01:06:09] That’s not going to do it. I know. But you know what I’m getting at. Like how do we – I hear the Economist are arguing that scale. But how is it is it that we don’t have enough of those pilot projects?  

Murtaza Haider: [01:06:20] So let’s look at the barriers and some of the barriers could be removed without putting much money into it. You have NIMBYs, not in my backyards, as-of-right zoning would take it. You have named those. These are the councilors who said, not in my term of office. It’s a great plan. Five storey building. Mm.  

Mary Rowe: [01:06:40] So it’s so easy. You both, both you and Ene are making the case the anti-subsidiary case which is basically bump it upstairs and make it as-of-right.   

Murtaza Haider: [01:06:49] Our councilors who are voted in by existing voters who are homeowners and they would oppose such development of high rise. Remember builders are fighting for density. They’re not saying let us build lower density or less floors. They spend a considerable amount of time trying to add two, three or more floors to their project. So we have designed a system that is fighting the builders and developers in providing density. The other thing is sometimes we put restraints thinking things would work. And that’s basically the disconnect between housing and transportation systems. Now, being a transportation engineer, I know a little thing or two about what happens with transportation, especially transit systems. Take the example of Sheppard subway extension in Toronto, $1,000,000,000 spent. And now even if you take the time before COVID, there were fewer people riding some of those stations than the bus route, the number of passengers carried on numerous bus routes in Toronto. Which meant that even after you provide public transit of higher order, that is subway systems, allow people to live nearby by building high rises, still there is a disconnect that people won’t use that service. So just by restricting and forcing builders and others to concentrate buildings in certain areas of certain types, we restrict the supply through our planning regulations for assumed benefits that we know have not happened, at least in the case of Sheppard subway. So there has to be certain realism behind our policy that when we are restricting people from supplying for certain reasons, those reasons should be sound and based on logic and data.  

Mary Rowe: [01:08:28] Ene and then Kira.  

Ene Underwood: [01:08:30] I’ll stand by for Kira. Thanks. I’ll come back after Kira.  

Mary Rowe: [01:08:33] Go ahead, Kira.  

Kira Gerwing: [01:08:34] Thanks, Ene. So, just a couple of things. First of all, I think it’s a false binary to say that there is social housing and then there is market housing. I think we are more sophisticated now than that. And we understand that there is a housing continuum and that housing continuum has a fort. And I see some of the folks in this chat, in the chat talking about affordable homeownership being part of that housing continuum. I would say that even in the rental market, there are different target markets that we should be distinguishing. So this idea that it’s either social housing or market housing I think is a false binary that doesn’t get us to the nuanced and sophisticated kind of policy conversation that I think we ought to be having right now. That’s my first point. The second point, when it comes to where this money comes from, I think, you know, this idea that rent controls create uncertainty, I would argue that it’s exactly the opposite. Rent controls guarantee that you’re going to get a certain amount of rent every month from a renter. And that amount of money is going to be sustaining your cash flow over the long haul. Granted, it might not be as much money as you get in a free market, but there’s more certainty and arguably less risk investing in an affordable housing project than there is in investing in a market housing project. So and we can have that debate some other time if you want to, Murtaza.  

Mary Rowe: [01:09:59] But the point would be that if you’ve got a robust, not-for-profit sector that’s mission based, it could be building rental and let the market go crazy.  

Kira Gerwing: [01:10:05] 100%. That’s exactly it.  

Mary Rowe: [01:10:08] Right. Right.  

Kira Gerwing: [01:10:09] That’s exactly it. And then my last point was just going to be, you know, a lot of the conversation, like I’ve been in lots of conversations like this over the years. We often talk about housing policy as if this is something that CMHC ought to do or in B.C., that BC housing ought to do. We don’t often talk about finance policy. And I would argue that through OSFI or through, in British Columbia, the B.C. Financial Services Association, that we could be getting much more sophisticated about regulating the amount of financing and the cost of financing, to Lilian’s point, that we make available to not-for-profit real estate developers and start differentiating the kind of financial products that we’re offering to the market and the kind of financial products that we’re offering to the non-market housing developers. And, you know, so CMHC right, so Lilian gave the case study of B.C. housing. The reason why CHF was only able to finance a certain amount is because they have a limited pool that they draw from. And they’re basically competing with financial institutions right now. And frankly, I think that’s kind of dumb. I think instead we could be encouraging and even, I’ll say it, mandating financial institutions. You could start with credit unions because you’re probably a little bit more working with the willing in that kind of financial institution. But start with financial institutions and say, you know what, you have to allocate a certain amount of your book to affordable housing delivery. And yes, it can be guaranteed. And  that was a point that I think Murtaza made. But, you know, let’s start getting more sophisticated with our financial policy instead of saying that, you know, supply is only enabled through what CMHC can do through its own programs.  

Mary Rowe: [01:11:52] So this would be through the Minister of Finance and it would be provincially and federally, and it would affect the rules of the game in terms of those investors. Ene, go ahead.  

Ene Underwood: [01:11:59] Yeah, so a few things. Number one, absolutely there’s a lot we can and should be doing in monetary policy. And a great conversation for another panel, that exclusively. I want to pick up Kira on what you said of just it is a continuum. There is a blurry – there are and should be blurry boundaries between what we think of as affordable housing and “market housing”, something that is become really clear to us at Habitat for Humanity is, because of the disappearance, and Lilian quoted some stats, of truly affordable housing, we’ve actually changed our model in the Greater Toronto area so that the appreciation sharing with the family approximate – they’re getting appreciation that more slowly approximates inflation, putting us in a position to always be buying these homes back as families are ready to move to market housing. And what that means is being able to keep these enclaves of affordability in our communities. And I do think that notion, as we talk about affordable housing, of when we make these commitments to affordable housing, how do we keep it affordable? The quid pro quo on the government side is, therefore, government fees associated with this housing we built and we, by the way, spend about $150,000 per habitat home in the GTA on government fees, those fees should really not be incurred until and as such time as a unit moves into the market. So things about let’s get smart about when we are building affordable house, how do we keep it that way? The place I think I want to end is just the reminder for all of us. I know everyone on this call is already motivated, is already in the housing space, but I think there is more that we can do on emboldening our governments. There is great organizations now here in the GTA, like More Neighbours Toronto, piling on to the work they are doing of pushing back against NIMBYism. The B.C. based Generation Squeeze, if people haven’t heard of it, go to their website. They are doing fantastic work, analytic work and advocacy work on how do we change our landscape so it’s going to work for the next generation. So I think it’s just this notion of, for each of us on this call, okay, what next? What more can we do?  

Mary Rowe: [01:14:16] 30 seconds to each of you on that. What next? What more can we do? And it has to be 30 seconds. Murtaza, you first.  

Murtaza Haider: [01:14:22] My $0.02 would be that we should keep the binary between the social housing and market housing, and no one can do everything at the same time. Therefore, we should keep that. Secondly, the governments have a responsibility that they should be looking into, by providing social housing, and making sure that no one fears or is afraid of the security of shelter. At the same time, let’s not create systematic hurdles in the way of builders as the way we have constrained them over the past five decades. Allow them to do what they know the best and better than us, and that is to build housing. We need to build a lot more than we have in the past five decades.  

Mary Rowe: [01:15:03] Okay. I think he just agreed with you, Lilian. I think. He said, let’s build some social but not the market. Lilian, a really very, very fast closing word to you and then to Kira. Go ahead.  

Lilian Chau: [01:15:12] Yeah, I think my closing is that I think we need to recognize that the impacts of housing unaffordability actually affects different groups differently. So depending on your gender, your age, your household income, immigrant status, etc.. And so I think that needs to be recognized in any policies that we’re actually looking at to make sure that we’re actually creating equitable access to housing because we cannot create, you know, everybody is equal. No, not everybody is equal in our society. And we need to understand how we get to an equitable access to housing.  

Mary Rowe: [01:15:43] I mean, one size never fits all, let’s just say. Kira, to you and then Ene, and then we’re going to break. Go ahead, Kira.  

Kira Gerwing: [01:15:49] Yeah, I think the topic of the conversation today is supply side solutions. So I would argue that where the opportunity to innovate is is in positioning the not-for-profit or community housing sector to be the delivery agent of choice for all affordable housing, not just social housing. I don’t agree with the binary nature of it because it limits then our ability to cross-subsidize. That’s my point.  

Mary Rowe: [01:16:17] Okay, Ene, last word to you.  

Ene Underwood: [01:16:19] Mary opened by referring to the traditional territories here in the GTA. One of those nations here in the GTA is the Haudenosaunee nation and they have a principle called the Seven Generations principle, which I will misstate somewhat, but it is the notion of we need to always look back seven generations. What can we learn from the past? And we must look forward seven generations to say, What are the decisions we’re making today going to mean for the lived experience seven generations down the road? And so I think for all of us getting better even at looking through two generations ahead, when we make transit, housing, environmental, monetary policy decisions, we need to be informed by the wisdom of the Haudenosaunee when it comes to these conversations.  

Mary Rowe: [01:17:02] Lots at stake in this conversation. Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a really great beginning to this. As we always say, it’s never the end. It’s just the beginning. Next week, we’re doing a session on encampments because summer is here and the tents are starting. And then the week after, we’re going to do a report back on what we heard because CUI has been working with the National Housing Council and many of you participated in talking about what has to happen for the National Housing Strategy. So listen, thanks very much for joining us. As you know, we’ll post the chat, we’ll post the video, and we’ll post some takeaways. And we hope you enjoy the rest of your day. And thanks again to Kira and Ene and Murtaza and Lilian. Thanks for joining us, gang. And everybody else. Bye. 

Full Audience
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Victoria, BC. Homelands of the Songhees and Esquimalt people.
12:04:01 From Alicia Persaud to Everyone:
12:04:04 From Guhad Hersi to Hosts and panelists:
Hello, from Toronto
12:04:06 From Waeza Afzal to Everyone:
12:04:40 From Lily-Ann DSouza to Everyone:
12:04:42 From HOWARD WAX to Everyone:
12:04:45 From Elizabeth Jassem to Everyone:
Great and very needed topic to discuss and to oush for better world in Toronto and everywhere. Thanks MAry.
12:05:37 From Gay Stephenson to Everyone:
Congratulations on your new adventure Jamie! You will be missed. Really interested in this session. Thank you!
12:06:40 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
HOUSEKEEPING: • A friendly zoom reminder, you can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear you • We have closed captioning enabled for today’s session. If you would like to turn it off, please click on the button at the bottom of your screen and disable • We are recording today’s session and will share it online at • We hope this session is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links or questions in the chat
12:07:03 From Mitchell Reardon to Hosts and panelists:
Hello from the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
12:07:10 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Stephanie Allen, Associate Vice President, Strategic Business and Operations and Performance, BC Housing: Stephanie Allen is a housing development specialist focused on building affordable, equitable communities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in urban studies. Stephanie’s masters research focused on the settlement and displacement of Black communities and documented the work done in Vancouver to seek redress for the displacement of Hogan’s Alley. She was awarded the 2020-2021 Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award in humanities, social sciences, education, and business disciplines for her research.
12:07:21 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Most recently, she was the recipient of the 2021 BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards, in the Breaking Barriers category, for tackling systemic racism and reducing barriers for communities that experience marginalization. Stephanie has worked in the private, non-profit, and public sectors of real estate development since 2002 and is a founding board member of Hogan’s Alley Society and she is currently the Vice President of Strategic Business Operations & Performance for BC Housing.
12:07:53 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Cynthia Dorrington, Owner, Vale & Associates Human Resources Management and Consulting Inc.: Vale & Associates is a boutique consulting firm specializing in providing strategic management, business consulting and contractual HR services to organizations. Working in areas such as organizational strategy, people strategy, diversity and inclusion, change management, governance, organizational assessments, supplier diversity, performance management, project management, HR advisory services, training and development as well as team building and effectiveness, Vale & Associates has been able to provide consulting services to a number of clients in the private, para-public, public and not-for-profit sectors, locally, nationally and internationally.
12:08:02 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
In 2013, Cynthia became a Principal partner in Global Professional Services International (GPSI), a consulting firm based in Australia specializing in capacity building and institutional strengthening for organizations. Vale has strategically partnered with American companies to collaborate in growing businesses for inclusion into the globally supply chain.
12:09:03 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Jamilla Mohamud, Urban Planner, Urban Strategies: Jamilla is an Urban Planner and researcher with experience working on a range of issues including urban health equity, post-secondary student housing affordability and gendered rights to the city. She has developed public health policy recommendations to enable healthier outcomes for communities, supported city-wide public consultations on proposed Inclusionary Zoning policy and contributed to the design and implementation of post-secondary student consultation strategies. Her professional work strives to leverage land use policies to benefit communities by raising awareness of intersecting issues that impact historically disadvantaged populations. At Urban Strategies, Jamilla is contributing to new master plan and campus master plans in Canada and the US.
12:10:29 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Anyika Mark, Director of Communications, Black Urbanism TO: Anyika Mark studied Political Science & Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto-St. George campus and was involved in a variety of student associations and community grassroots organizations throughout her years as an undergraduate. On campus this would include: Black Students’ Association, the Caribbean Studies Student Union, UofT’s Black Graduation ceremony. Off campus collectives include the Caribbean Solidarity Network, BlackUrbanismTO, Mount Dennis Community Association, and the York South-Weston NDP Riding Association.
12:10:40 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Being a lover of theatre, Anyika was the Stage Manager for DreamGirl and has acted in a number of student-led productions. Anyika recently had the honour of hosting a live read of her own play, Making Moves, with Nightwood Theatre through their playwrighting program, Write From The Hip in September of 2019. Making Moves was also performed at Weston Artscape in February 2020 by Piece of Mine Arts for their Black Women In Theatre event.
12:11:51 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Lanrick Bennett Jr, Managing Director of 880 Cities: Lanrick joined 8 80 Cities in March of 2020. He held previous positions as the Hub Manager at Artscape Wychwood Barns, Regional Advisor in the Ontario Provincial Government and Education Officer at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. As an advocate for social programs, Lanrick was one half of #JacksLibraryTour, where he and his 5-year-old son visited all 100 Toronto Public Libraries using public transit. He is a year-round urban cyclist who champions protected cycling infrastructure in multiple forms. Taking a page out of his improv training with the Second City, he celebrates the concept of “Yes, And,” which will enable him to keep moving the concepts of 8 80 Cities forward.
12:18:46 From Mary Gelinas to Everyone:
Thrilled about the knowledge and experience of this panel, thank you everyone! Question regarding the potential of a Cultural District in Little Jamaica in Toronto. Does the panel think this will be an effective way to preserve the “intangible” cultural heritage that doesn’t seem to be respected using Heritage Conservation Districts in Ontario/Toronto? Interested in how a cultural (heritage) district would be able to deter displacement of racialized and low income people/businesses/cultures in other neighbourhoods in Toronto (Parkdale specifically). Thank you!
12:19:29 From Anyika Mark to Everyone:
Such a great question Mary, can’t wait to get into that!
12:19:43 From Donnie Rosa to Everyone:
Thank you for the work you are doing in BC Stephanie, you push me/all of us to be better humans. Jamilla, systemic change indeed!
12:22:57 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Hi Donnie! You are also doing great work as the GM of Parks thrust into responding to the homeless crisis in Vancouver. It’s been an honour to work with you.
12:22:59 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Bit of a followup or maybe clarification of Mary’s question. Do the policies about Heritage Conservation Districts HCDs need to change? Right now, HCD plans are pretty effective in safeguarding identified aspects of neighbourhoods. The recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force, if implemented, would totally destroy that protection. Any comments?
12:24:14 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Still not adopted in BC
12:24:18 From Gloriela Iguina-Colon to Everyone:
Could you please walk us through an example of the work you have done in the past two years that employed strategies for inclusive resident engagement?
12:24:58 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Great question Gloriela!
12:25:52 From Gloriela Iguina-Colon to Everyone:
How do you engage diverse stakeholders? What are best practices you employ for doing so?
12:26:29 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent:
12:28:08 From Scott Carnall to Everyone:
Thanks for the conversation, as more municipalities begin to remove single family only zoning are we seeing more diverse neighbourhoods or is there still obstructions in changes in mature neighbourhoods?
12:32:51 From Verlyn Francis to Everyone:
I continue to admire the work being done in Nova Scotia. We would go a long way in large cities like Toronto if we, as Black communities, boldly come together to demand the services and respect we deserve in Canada. Only the Indigenous peoples have been here before us and everyone is coming and pushing us aside.
12:33:19 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Stephanie, where can we find resources about how you approached assisting the unhoused population in your city? I would love to learn more
12:34:27 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Hi Michelle, please reach out to the BC Housing Research centre. We have some limited published material and more to come
12:35:05 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Thank you! Loving this conversation and everything this group is sharing.
12:36:39 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
Please share these incredible resources here.
12:37:14 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Or send these resources to us as a followup. They are great.
12:37:46 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
World Urban Forum 11 deadline for proposals is March 21.
12:38:27 From Natasha Douglas to Everyone:
Yes, the individuals and resources mentioned have been great
12:39:09 From Zara Brown to Everyone:
12:39:25 From Nathan Baya to Everyone:
12:40:18 From Nicole Hanson to Everyone:
12:40:46 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
12:41:00 From Nicole Hanson to Everyone:
We’re national 👍🏾
12:41:27 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
This whole panel would be so powerful at the World Urban Forum which I think is going to be part in person and part online.
12:42:30 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Folks at MIIPOC are also phenomenal:
12:48:07 From Julie Chamberlain to Everyone:
So grateful for this excellent conversation and the many strategies and people highlighted! Will this recording be shared? I’d like to share it with my planning students!
12:48:58 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Hi Julie! Yes, the transcript and recording from today’s session will be available at
12:49:30 From Julie Chamberlain to Everyone:
Wonderful, thank you!
12:50:22 From Kathleen Elgie to Hosts and panelists:
Jamie, by transcript, do you mean the chat?
12:51:01 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Kathleen Elgie and all panelists:
Hey Kathleen. We share both the chat and panel transcript for each session.
12:51:32 From Kathleen Elgie to Hosts and panelists:
12:52:04 From Verlyn Francis to Everyone:
Thank you to all the panelists for your wisdom and ideas. So good to hear the sharing of strategies. Please tell us how we can contribute to the work.
12:55:42 From Ingrid Barrett to Everyone:
Play is critical in early child development
12:56:19 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at
12:57:29 From Anyika Mark to Everyone:
12:57:53 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Encourage everyone to tune in to Global TV Friday at 9 pm for BLK: An Origin Story about Black history in BC
12:58:41 From Beth Wilson to Everyone:
Thank you for a great session! I’m off to a meeting.
12:58:43 From Eleni Taye to Everyone:
Thank you to all the panelists! Very engaging
12:58:56 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
12:58:59 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Lanrick Bennett Jr.(Direct Message):
You’ve been wonderful!! Thank you so much
12:59:02 From Meaghan Palynchuk to Everyone:
Thank you for such a great session and panelists !! This hour went by too fast !!
12:59:03 From Zara Brown to Everyone:
Thank you all
12:59:12 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
Great Panel!!!
12:59:14 From Mitchell Reardon to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you for this excellent discussion
12:59:16 From Sarah Gelbard to Everyone:
Thank you all!
12:59:16 From Mary Gelinas to Everyone:
The fastest hour! Thank you!
12:59:23 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you!!
12:59:24 From Natasha Douglas to Everyone:
Fantastic!!! Thank you!
12:59:26 From Jill Wigle to Everyone:
Thank you for a fantastic session!
12:59:29 From Claire Lee to Everyone:
Thank you for sharing with us!
12:59:32 From Lindsay Telfer to Everyone:
Fantastic conversation…thank you.
12:59:34 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Appreciate everyone who joined and so great to share space with everyone on the panel today 🙂 peace and love!
12:59:37 From Gillian Walczak to Everyone:
excellent discussion!! THANK YOU ALL!!!
12:59:37 From Michelle (she/they) to Everyone:
🖤🖤 Thanks for all the information! essential information to bring to our city councillors.
12:59:39 From Catalina Parada to Everyone:
Thank you very much!
12:59:40 From Jennifer Green to Hosts and panelists:
Thanks for this excellent session!
12:59:41 From Agi Kapllani to Everyone:
I learned a lot! Thank-you!
12:59:42 From Sarah Burrell to Everyone:
Such an inspiring session – thank you to everyone on the panel today!
12:59:43 From Mia Bailey to Everyone:
Thank you
12:59:46 From Carla Mays to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you 🙏🏾
12:59:46 From Elizabeth Jassem to Everyone:
thank you.
12:59:46 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
12:59:48 From Michelle (she/they) to Everyone:
Good lck in all your work!
12:59:50 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
Thank you !
12:59:50 From Jenna Dutton to Everyone:
Thanks to all panelists!
12:59:50 From Rutendo Madzima to Everyone:
Thank you
12:59:52 From Alicia Persaud to Everyone:
Thank you!
12:59:52 From Fredrica Walters to Everyone:
Thank you everyone for an amazing hour
12:59:52 From Magdalena Ugarte to Everyone:
Thank you! What a great conversation
12:59:53 From Patrick Henry to Everyone:
Thank you all!
12:59:57 From Reuben Briggs to Everyone:
thank you!
12:59:57 From Sherene Nichol to Everyone:
thank you
12:59:57 From Cassandra Dorrington to Hosts and panelists:
Great conversation, I love the range of perspectives.
12:59:59 From HOWARD WAX to Hosts and panelists:
13:00:00 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Thank you!