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Condo developers say government must step up

October 5, 2021

New North Harbour condo project, North Vancouver, by Concert Properties.| Concert Properties

The annual Canadian Apartment Investment Conference was held September 20 in Toronto, and affordable housing was as much of a topic during a developer panel as it was during the federal election held the same day.
Concert Properties president and CEO Brian McCauley said the pandemic has made housing affordability worse right across the country, not just in Toronto and Vancouver where the problem may be most acute.
Increasing housing supply is vital, but McCauley said the private sector can’t do it on its own.
“We absolutely need other levels of government in order to support programs, whether they’re financial programs or rental supplement programs or others in order to create greater affordability. We have to get better alignment between federal government initiatives, provincial government initiatives and local municipalities.”
Canada was targeting 325,000 immigrants annually pre-COVID and that number has now risen to more than 400,000, so McCauley said the affordable-housing problem will likely grow worse if solutions aren’t found soon.
“The reality is that there’s no alignment between immigration and housing policies in our nation today. We need the federal government to step in with much more significant contributions in order to address deeper affordability needs in Canada,” he said.
“We need the municipalities and the provinces to weigh in to streamline the development approval processes in all municipalities because that’s really where the rubber hits the road and that’s where we’re having the most difficulty in providing supply.”
Gary Lee, a moderator on the panel and managing director of residential at BentallGreenOak, agreed saying, “National policies are often at the mercy of local governments.”
GWL Realty Advisors senior vice-president of multi-family, Anne Morash, said Canada has experienced a surge in international students in recent years and there may be a need to build more student housing so they don’t rent or buy homes to live in—reducing the housing supply for Canadians.
Morash said there’s also a need for more seniors housing and for repurposing low-rise housing stock to higher densities. She also stressed there needs to be a balance between protecting the existing rental supply and potentially penalizing some institutional investors who purchased existing stock, modernized them and turned them into higher-income rental properties.


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