Our goal as an industry is to build complete communities that are environmentally sustainable, affordable and meet the housing needs of the GTA’s 100,000 new residents each year.
Unfortunately, delivering on that goal is getting harder as challenges grow in number and scale. Multi-layered government policies and regulatory frameworks, ever lengthening approval processes, escalating land prices, and restrictions on land supply are some of the issues that hinder the development of complete communities that are affordable for today and for the future.
Building sustainable complete communities and how realistic or idealistic it is was the subject of a recent BILD debate. And while the industry experts on the event’s panel agreed that developing thriving communities is possible, they also raised many obstacles that impede the industry’s ability to create them.
The importance of creating environmentally sustainable communities was stressed by all speakers. However, it was pointed out that many of the elements that help make communities more environmentally sustainable are expensive to build.
The effect of government policy on building new housing was one of the debate’s most talked about matters. The home building and land development industry is one of the most heavily regulated with numerous policies and processes controlling where and how development happens.
One of the most impactful policies is the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe which was introduced a decade ago. Designed to change the pattern of development in the GTA and beyond, it mandates intensification. In accordance with Growth Plan policy, the industry is building up and not out and today we are developing more multi-family high and mid-rise condos and fewer low-rise homes especially single-family detached homes. As was pointed out at the debate, demand for detached homes has not dropped so we have a housing supply and affordability problem.
Participants also discussed the impact of constraints on the supply of land that is serviced and ready for development. Land designated for development that is shovel-ready and serviced with sewers, water and roads is in short supply and that is also impacting the industry’s ability to deliver complete communities.
Another issue raised in the debate was rising government fees and charges and the impact those escalating costs are having on development and new home buyers. Government charges and fees amount to one-fifth the cost of a new home and they continue to increase. Development charges alone have increased between 143 and 357 per cent since 2004.
As the GTA grows and changes, it is becoming more important to build communities that will last for generations to come. We need to work to together and think big to come up with innovative solutions for how to do things in a different way.
Bryan Tuckey is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and is a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments. He can be found on Twitter (twitter.com/bildgta), Facebook (facebook.com/bildgta) and BILD’s official online blog (bildblogs.ca).