Building Boom? I Think Not!

2019 building levels in the GTA are comparable to 1990s levels – it’s astonishing. Let’s hope that the current/upcoming recession/depression/immigration decrease/foreign investment decrease aren’t how we solve this longstanding supply problem.

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Building boom? I think not!

One of the benefits of aging is having a longer history of experiences. I remember the housing recession in the early 1990s – it’s when I lost my job and my house. This was a period of housing stagflation (persistent high inflation combined with high unemployment and stagnant demand) in the GTA. 1995 was the worst year for housing completions in the 1990s.

A comparison of early 1990s with 2019 is truly astounding. Thank you, Ben Myers from Bullpen Consulting, for the outstanding data!

  • The total amount of square footage built in 2019 is comparable to what was being built annually in the early 1990s.
  • The number of bedrooms built in 2019 is the lowest in the past 22 years, and is comparable to 1990s levels.

The main cause of the GTA housing problem has not changed in decades! We are simply not building enough homes. Supply is sorely lacking. All levels of government are contributing to this problem, and none have been able to make any meaningful improvements.

We can expect this situation to deteriorate before it improves, if past performance is any indication.

The most likely thing to ease the problem is a total collapse in demand as a result of (take your pick(s)) recession/depression/immigration decrease/foreign investment decrease. All of these reductions in demand have significant adverse impacts on the economy. Let’s hope this isn’t how we solve the supply problem. I would love to see policy changes from all levels of government. That is the solution.

I’d love to hear your take on this issue. Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation.

Pushing for Progress: Tackling the Housing Crisis in Bracebridge

My latest project in the works in Bracebridge, ON – developing and building rental apartments – is attempting to address Muskoka’s housing crisis.

Bracebridge apartments site plan

The housing crisis in Ontario is well-documented. From Toronto and the GTA to other southeastern areas of the province like Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, Peterborough, Barrie, Muskoka and beyond, there’s a serious shortage of housing – and especially low-priced, attainable and affordable housing. A growing population, increasing costs of home ownership, a lack of well-paid and secure jobs, and increasing numbers of single-person households are all contributing to the crisis.

There’s especially a shortage of rental apartments, because the incentives for builders and developers to create rental housing have been very low since the 90s, and the government hasn’t been able to do it on their own. In Toronto, we’ve seen a proliferation of condos, which have higher profit margins for builders. In regions like Muskoka, rentals haven’t been built because of zoning restrictions, prohibitive development costs and government limitations.

Tackling the Housing Crisis

I’ve written about this problem before. (Check out my blog post “Getting to the Bottom of Ontario’s Rental Problem”.) To increase rental supply, I think the best solution is for the private sector (people like me!) to work with government.

This is being done sporadically, but many are skeptical about private/public partnerships, especially with developers.

However, we can all see that neither government nor the private sector alone has been able and/or willing to build sufficient rental housing. Working together is the only way to improve our housing crisis.

My Latest Initiative: Proposed Rental Apartments in Bracebridge

I’ve recently encountered this problem directly in Bracebridge, ON (Muskoka), where I’ve been trying to stir things up by pushing forward an exciting new project.

I have a vision for a rental housing project on Woodward Street in Bracebridge. It seeks to address Bracebridge’s housing shortage by bringing 49 new attainable, accessible, net zero-ready, energy efficient, environmental, low impact rental units to the community. This offers a high level of social benefit and increases the rental housing options available, which is beneficial to all.

In the past 5 years (2015-2019), according to data from the Town of Bracebridge, only 22 multi-residential apartment units have been approved for construction in Bracebridge. I’m proposing to add 49, which is double the total for the past 5 years.

I’ve been asking for the Town of Bracebridge and the District of Muskoka to work with me by rezoning the 2.2 acre parcel of land to allow for the higher density I need for this new apartment rental project. I’m also going to ask for relief from development charges (levies) and building permit and other development fees.

This project has great community social benefits, and yet opposition from NIMBY neighbouring homeowners has been an issue. The development process typically addresses objections from opponents more than it addresses supporters. That may be because most development projects – especially rental construction – have more objectors (typically NIMBYs and immediate neighbours) than supporters.

I’m therefore now working to engage the people of Bracebridge and to gather public support for this project. I want to give a voice to the many unheard champions and supporters of much-needed rental housing in Bracebridge. 

I think that if local Bracebridge politicians know there’s support from the larger community, it will help them to fend off the NIMBY neighbours. I want to help the decision makers hear from supporters, and not just the neighbours who are in opposition – who are typically the only ones to show up to public meetings about new developments such as this one.

We need to do what is right for the entire community. Given the housing needs in Bracebridge, I believe that my rental concept may have more supporters than objectors.

There’s been a high level of local interest in this project, and it has been covered in several local media sources:

If you support this project, please submit a written statement of support today to planning@bracebridge.ca. Please include your name, hometown, and reason for interest/support in the project.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation!

Ontario Just Made A Major Improvement To The Ontario Building Code (OBC)

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Starting in 2015, Ontario builders will be allowed to construct buildings for business, mercantile and residential use – up to 6 stories – out of wood. Previously, wood buildings could be maximum 4 stories. Builders had long tried to amend this rule. There was active opposition, from groups such as the Canadian Steel Construction Council, the Canadian Sheet Steel Building Institute (CSSBI), and other Canadian and US steel interests, who claimed (among other things) that cutting trees for building wasn’t environmentally friendly, masonry buildings last a lot longer and – probably more obvious – wood burns easier than concrete and steel.

British Columbia had already passed a similar act back in 2009 after much debate. It ended up being a perfect solution to help them unload the dead timber that resulted from the pine beetle epidemic killing approximately half of the province’s commercial pine. Guess what? They haven’t proven to be more dangerous than other kinds of buildings. They are comparable in terms of fire/life safety, strength and durability, and seismic performance. Wood also has the lowest embodied energy of any building material – so using it can potentially reduce a development’s carbon footprint.

I think that allowing 6 stories will improve affordability and increase the number of projects/sites, which will become viable. Previously they would have been built out of concrete which is much more expensive and especially unviable for 4-6 stories. It’s great to see the government making decisions that are of benefit to all – consumers, builders and suppliers.

You can check out the official statement from the BILD President/CEO Bryan Tuckey about the change to Ontario Building Code here.

Introducing Our Newest Client

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One of my favourite times at BAM is announcing when we have a new client. I’m so thrilled to say that day has come again! Over the last several months, the team has been working incredibly hard bringing this new client to life. We’ve gone from strategy to execution in four short months. I’d like to introduce you to our newest project – Queensville.

Queensville is going to be the next amazing new town in Ontario. With over 6,000 houses planned, this project exceeds anything we’ve ever done inside the walls of BAM. Our team is very proud to be working on this new client and is showing it love and dedication every step of the way.

We’ve been given the opportunity to team up with three of the most experienced and trustworthy builders in Ontario. The best part? They’re just as passionate and visionary about this project as we are. We’re so excited to be building this amazing new destination.

As always, we’re backing this project with a dynamite team of inspired individuals. When it comes to the marketing of Queensville, BAM is truly adding our own special touch. In order to maximize customer experience from the very start of this project, we’ve implemented marketing automation into each of our practices. What’s that? It’s just a fancy way of saying that we’re providing each customer with a personalized experience. We’re confident this is going to set Queensville apart from the rest.

Here’s a little bit more information about Queensville so that you can get as excited as we are. First is the incredible location. It’s going to be its own private destination, but connected to everything! It neighbours Aurora, Richmond Hill and Markham and is connected to Toronto by the 404. The home designs will pay tribute to the family with spaces inside and out where family can enjoy being family. We’re planning 36’ and 45’ homesites with a limited line of boutique townhomes.

Thanks to my incredible team at BAM for their hard work on this project! I know each of us are looking forward to continued success as this incredible development unfolds.

BAM Becomes a Google AdWords Certified Partner

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Just last week, BAM became a Google AdWords Certified Partner. Team BAM has been rocking their digital game for quite some time – but this new development really seals the deal for us. Over the last five years, we’ve really been pushing the envelope to better manage our clients’ online needs. With brand new team members in our eBAM department and in client services, we are performing at our highest level ever.

What is Google AdWords Certification?

To become a Certified Partner, a business must have managed at least $10,000 in ad expenditures over the last 90 days and have at least one of its employees pass two exams to individually certify them. We had the first requirement going for us, but it wasn’t until we hired a new Digital Advertising Manager that we fulfilled the second criteria. This Google AdWords Certification has even started a trend around the office! Four other members from our client services and eBAM departments have been inspired to set goals to achieve their certification in 2014. Go team BAM!

How does this benefit BAM?

Never underestimate the power of learning. Team BAM is taking advantage of all the useful tools available for effective online marketing. Through the certification process, we’re gaining training directly from Google, which will improve our SEM skills and expertise. Google Partnership also means we receive exclusive access to a range of benefits including live training events, industry insights, beta test opportunities and extra support.

How does this benefit our clients?

Our proficiency will go a long way in helping us reach new levels with our clients. Our new Google Partnership badge will ensure we work more efficiently by using the resources provided by Google to optimize our clients’ accounts by enhancing their opportunities online.

Each day we continue to learn, grow and expand as a team. After five years of growing our eBAM team, we are leading the online marketing field for new homebuilders. I can’t wait to see what we achieve in the next five years as we continue to get stronger, smarter and more innovative as a team.

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