Lives lived closer together present big new challenges and hoped-for opportunities for Canadians — particularly families — as they seek, own or rent homes, a report of an expert panel on ‘residential intensification’ of the Consumers Council of Canada details.
The report is the second step in the Council’s recent efforts to assess necessary actions to meet the housing needs of Canadians in the 21st Century, and makes 24 recommendations based on the experience of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Vancouver, in particular.
Residential intensification affects everyone, because we are all consumers of housing. One’s home may be impacted directly or indirectly as more people can expect to live in heavily populated neighbourhoods. More families are choosing city life, millennials hope for affordable starter homes, seniors need to ‘downsize’ and live affordably in safe, accessible ‘neighbourhoods’, and not everyone will or wants to own a home. Consumers’ needs vary.
Over a year, the panel of 12 consumers, developers and building experts met to discuss the broad impacts of rising housing densities.
The recommendations on which the panel achieved unanimous agreement address:
- housing affordability
- building performance
- municipal planning and resident lifestyles
- a new and expanded list of condo owner rights and responsibilities
- more disclosure in the marketing of new condos
- the prioritization of housing affordability for government agencies
- a new definition of affordable family housing
- deep retrofits of rental towers
- a province-wide building energy rating system
- changes to municipal Official Plans
- the creation of new density studies for public discussion
“The consumer marketplace for housing has rapidly shifted in major Canadian cities from suburban to urban, from low density to high” said Consumers Council of Canada President Aubrey LeBlanc. “Many consumers, whether embracing or simply weathering the trend, find themselves making homes in unfamiliar territory, uncertain economic conditions.
“The Council was conscious it would need experienced partners to grasp, much less grapple with, the complexity of today’s housing marketplace. We were heartened to find an organization representing the builders of Ontario wanted to share our journey of thinking deeply about how to ensure Canadians can continue in this century to be among the best-housed in the world.”
The panel report follows on the Council’s earlier 2014 Consumer Perspective 360° report: Residential Intensification: Density and Its Discontents.
RESCON is a unique association within the building industry that contributes to public policy discussions and standards development in such areas as:
- Health & Safety and WSIB Issues
- Labour Training and Apprenticeship
- Building Code Reform
- Technical Standards
- Procedures and Insurance
“The complex requirements of building at new levels of residential density is requiring a building industry that is more technically sophisticated, planning-oriented and collaborative than ever before,” said RESCON President Richard Lyall. “Our industry must be ready to engage with all the players and adapt nimbly to satisfy the rapidly changing needs of today’s consumer.”
Canada’s cities are adapting to economic growth, infrastructure renewal, household formation, globalization and new urban planning paradigms intended to address planning effectively for growth compatible with protecting the natural environment. Intensified use of urban lands for residential and other purposes has become a policy choice deemed to be a necessity for cities. As well, growing numbers of people within Canada and from abroad are attracted to the opportunities offered by Canada’s cities, as they seek to realize new lifestyle choices and find ways to meet new and enduring needs.
Builders have embraced the resulting marketplace opportunities and responded with unprecedented levels of construction of condominium apartments and townhouses, using less land per residence than has been common previously in Canada’s cities.
As many more Canadians move closer together, not surprisingly some challenges have emerged for consumers, builders and the real estate marketplace.
The Council hopes the panel’s report helps the consuming public, news media, elected officials, public servants, industry professionals and Council and RESCON members to better understand consumer issues emerging as a result of residential intensification. This should help current efforts by all interested parties to take steps necessary to achieve consumer satisfaction.
The Council extends its thanks to the 12 panel members, who were chosen for their consumer experience, expert knowledge, and industry know-how and brought their resulting insights to their final report. The panel members were:
- John Caliendo, a consumer member of the panel who is Co-President of the ABC Residents’ Association in downtown Toronto
- Ken Greenberg, an expert member who is President of Greenberg Consultants
- Craig Holloway, an industry member who is a Senior Project Manager at the Sorbara Group
- Corey McBurney, an expert member who is President of EnerQuality
- Linda Pinizzotto, a consumer member who is President of the Condo Owners Association
- Don Pugh, an industry member who is a Vice President of Daniels Corporation
- Bryan Purcell, an expert member who is Director of Policy and Programs at the Toronto Atmospheric Fund
- David Speigel, an industry member who is a Partner and COO at Metropia Inc.
- Alex Speigel, an industry member who is a Partner at Windmill Developments
- Brian Smith, a consumer member who was President and CEO of WoodGreen Community Services when this project began and has since retired and joined the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing
- Marianne Touchie, an expert member who during the project was the Building Research Manager at the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto
- Sybil Wa, a consumer member who is an Associate at Diamond Schmitt Architects
The panel was fortunate to receive presentations from the following individuals, who in their capacity at the time, shared their experience and knowledge:
- Remo Agostino, Vice President, Development, Daniels Corporation
- Mike Cote, Vice President, Builder Relations, Tarion Warranty Corporation
- Tony Gioventu, Executive Director, Condominium Home Owners Association of BC
- Heather Grey-Wolf, Director, Regent Park Revitalization, Toronto Community Housing
- Matthew Hellin, Senior Policy Advisor, Condominium Modernization Project, Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
- Michel Labbé, President, Options for Homes Non-Profit Corporation
- Robert Levit, Director, Master of Architecture Program, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto
- Peter Moore, Project Manager, Condo Consultation, City of Toronto
- Dana Senagama, Senior Market Analyst, Greater Toronto Area, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
- Phil Simeon, Manager, Condominium Modernization Project, Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
- Bryan Tuckey, President and CEO, Building Industry and Land Development Association
Marshall Leslie acted as facilitator of the panel and wrote the report. He chairs the Housing and Energy Committee of the Consumers Council of Canada.
Working together as the Consumers Council of Canada our members form the most active, Canada-wide, multi-issue consumer group. The Council is respected and well known to governments and the news media. Representatives have standing with building code and standards development organizations, the Ontario Energy Board, regulators such as the Ontario Technical Standards and Safety Authority, the Electrical Safety Authority and other bodies dealing with the built environment. The Council’s approach to consumer representation is to work with industry and government to give expression to the consumer voice, and to work constructively to identify and produce solutions to problems.