The housing crisis in Canada has hit Peterborough hard — demand and prices have gone through the roof.
We need more homes of all types. For this week’s column, we’re taking a look at some of the proposed solutions for getting more built and making it easier for people to buy them.
Taking the politics out of site plans
The Province is looking to have municipalities delegate site plan approvals to staff rather than requiring council decisions. To get to the point where a site plan is up for approval, a development must meet the terms set out in the official plan or have an amendment that is approved by council. Council still has a say regarding the zoning, which sets out the rules for uses for the property and the size of buildings. Site plans are focused on the actual final layout of the development, including entrances, parking, and grading.
Set deadlines for approvals
The Province is planning to add aggressive deadlines for getting development applications approved. Faster approvals will equal more homes being built, but it’s a two-way street. In a report to council, Interim Commissioner of Infrastructure and Planning Services Michael Papadacos notes that some of the delays are attributed to developers, consultants, and external agencies. Staff often have to go back and forth with applicants to get all of the necessary information. It’s going to take a concerted effort from all involved to speed up the application process.
Subdivisions take a lot of work to plan out. They need water and sewer service to their location, upgraded roads, and electricity grid expansion. These greenfield developments will always have a place in our growth, but infilling and redevelopment offer more opportunities to add additional housing without as much new infrastructure. However, redevelopment has other hurdles in terms of zoning, fire code, accessibility, modern building codes, flood plains, and architectural heritage. Infilling has a positive community impact as it gets more people closer to the amenities already available.
To make it easier and quicker to redevelop existing properties, municipalities can get a head start on issues like zoning and heritage priorities so developers know what they are getting into. We’re also calling on the Province to work with property owners to find solutions to converting old buildings to modern fire, building and accessibility codes.
Modernizing the HST threshold
The Ontario Home Builders Association us advocating for province to increase the threshold for charging HST to buyers of new homes from $400,000 to $600,000. The program is a decade old and doesn’t reflect the current price of new homes. Increasing the HST threshold to $600,000 would increase the rebate to home buyers by $12,000 to $36,000.
Pay-on-Demand Surety Bonds
Municipalities require assurance that the necessary site improvements will be constructed in a timely manner and as designed when approving a development like subdivisions and site plans. This assurance typically requires a Letter of Credit from a bank, using up a large amount of credit capacity builders have available to them. This means that builders who might have the capacity otherwise to carryout a series of projects at once are unable to do so.
The Ontario Home Builders Association is advocating for Pay-on-Demand Surety Bonds as an alternative. These can provide municipalities with the same level of financial security while not restricting a builder’s credit capacity, enabling them to build more homes, dramatically increasing housing supply available to buyers.
Supply chain and inflation
Even with an approval and financing in place, building more homes has other challenges. Supply chain and inflation issues have hit most Canadians in various ways. Even with an approval, getting the supplies and tools needed to build more homes is a challenge. Investments in core supply chain infrastructure is critical to the success of our plans for aggressive home construction and redevelopment.
Inflation has added an additional challenge in quoting a build and planning future developments. Both material and labour costs are on the rise. For projects that take years to plan and build, this challenge adds more risk and uncertainty. It also limits a developers’ ability to take on more ambitious projects as they weigh the risk of overextending themselves due to unpredictable rising costs.
Ontario was facing a shortage of skilled trades workers prior to the pandemic and housing crisis. Many builders are making due with less, but that limits the amount and speed they can build. Our post-secondary institutions have been busy creating more trades opportunities and the government has increased its messaging in promoting young people into the trades, but the current skilled worker shortage is holding back home development.
It's going to require a multifaceted approach to solving our housing crisis. It’s going to take a concerted effort from all levels of government, builders, lenders, and educational institutions. In our efforts to build more homes, we also need to be careful not to push aside the community consultation process. We need to make sure we’re building toward a sustainable, affordable future that builds a community that is not only bigger, but stronger.
The status quo isn’t enough when it comes to building more homes in Peterborough.
The latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show Peterborough lagging when it comes to building new homes. In May, there were 20 new homes started and 17 completed in the Peterborough Census Metropolitan Area. Meanwhile next door in the City of Kawartha Lakes 278 new homes were started and 15 completed. Kingston saw 195 starts and 136 completions. Barrie had 123 starts and 75 finishes.
While these numbers can ebb and flow based on a variety of factors, the overall theme is that we need to do more to create housing in our community.
While the prices of homes seem to have stabilized over the last couple months, supply is still way behind demand.
According to the report Baby Needs A New Home: Projecting Ontario’s Growing Number of Families and Their Housing Needs, Ontario is going to need 1 million new homes over the next 10 years. The report, which is from the Smart Prosperity Institute and funded by the Ontario Homebuilders’ Association, notes that we’re already 65,000 homes short of what is needed.
Lack of access to housing is creating additional social challenges in our community. It’s also making it difficult to attract and retail talent, which is one of the biggest challenges facing local businesses right now.
According to Statistics Canada, we’re experiencing the highest level of interprovincial migration in more than 30 years, with Ontario taking the biggest hit. Many of the people leaving are younger, first-time home buyers — the very people our labour market is desperately in need of.
There is a lot to debate in terms of types of housing needed and strategies to make it affordable for first-time buyers, but the core issue is we simply need more — more single detached-homes, duplexes, townhouses, low-rises, and mid-rises. We need to infill and create higher-density neighbourhoods, but also look to expand into new areas.
One key area Peterborough can address to help increase housing stock is to streamline the planning approval process. The Province is rolling out Bill 109, known as the More Homes for Everyone Act, which includes streamlining and speeding up the municipal planning and approvals process for new developments. The City of Peterborough received $1.75 million from the Province to help with streamlining the development process. It’s important that the City embrace measures that are in the interest of improving access to housing in our community.
Streamlining the municipal planning process will involve delegating more approval responsibilities to the qualified and competent staff at City Hall. There will still be public notice and consultations, but plans that meet the rules set out by council and the province will get approved more easily and quickly. It will also take some of the politics out of planning, reducing red tape and uncertainty.
Aside from taking direction from the Province, there are some very knowledgeable people and organizations that want to be part of the solution. Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders have been actively working with City staff and council, highlighting the barriers homebuilders face and suggest way to improve the development process.
Whether it’s Provincial direction through Bill 109 or something more grassroots, our community needs an active and concerted effort streamline the process for building more homes — and it’s needed ASAP.
More investments in home care are needed
Our population is getting older quickly. The Government of Canada’s Action for Seniors report states one in seven Canadians were seniors in 2021 with that number expected to jump to one in four by 2030. The Canadian Institute for Health Information is predicting a 68% increase in Canada’s senior population from 2017 to 2037, accounting for 10.4 million people.
Receiving healthcare at home is the preferred route for most people where feasible, saving both them and the government money when compared to staying in institutions. However, upfront capital costs and ongoing out-of-pocket health and personal service care costs to provide adequate healthcare are a major barrier to home care.
The applies to seniors as well as those with ongoing healthcare needs due to illness or injury.
The National Home Modifications Survey, commissioned by March of Dimes Canada in April 2021, found 78% of Canadians want to age in their current homes, but only 26% predict they’ll be able to do so. The survey found 50% of adults and seniors identified costs of home modifications as a barrier.
For many, the decision to move into long-term care is complicated, even if it’s the best way to meet their healthcare needs. The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) estimates some 40,000 Canadians were on waitlists for nursing homes at any given time in 2019. Meanwhile, they estimated a further 430,000 Canadians have unmet homecare needs. The NIA estimates 22% of people currently in nursing homes would be better served at home with the appropriate support.
Our municipal, provincial and federal governments spend billions of dollars every year on assisting people with long-term healthcare needs with the majority going to long-term care homes and subsidies for institutional care. The NIA estimates that in 2018 public spending on long-term care in Canada included $20 billion for nursing home care and $4 billion for home and community-based care.
Most Canadians in need of regular healthcare are getting it at home whether by choice or lack of available institutional space. Some require a moderate level of support while others need several hours of daily care. Regardless, the costs are cheaper for care at home than in an institution.
Home Care Ontario estimates based on a 2011 study that the costs for care are $842/day for a hospital bed, $126/day for a long-term care bed, and $42/ day for home care.
Home care allows Canadians to get the care they want at a much lower cost to the public and, depending on the subsidies they are eligible for, a lower cost to themselves.
Receiving care at home has challenges and significant expenses. Many people’s homes need renovations and special equipment from beds to lifts. There are costs for private services, including medical care, housekeeping, transportation, physical therapy, cooking, and personal care. The role of family caregivers can only offer so much and is dependant on a senior’s family situation.
Home Care Ontario found family fund more than 20 million hours of home care annually for 150,000 people at an average cost of $17,600 per year per family.
While healthcare is provincial in operations, our federal government is heavily involved in supporting our healthcare network and has provided tax credits for various healthcare initiatives.
The Government of Canada currently offers the Medical Expense Tax Credit, but it does not offer a level of support sufficient to have a meaningful impact for someone undertaking the task of receiving long-term care at home.
Offering subsidies to receive care at home will save Canadians money when it comes to healthcare spending and relieve pressure on our overburdened healthcare system.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce has submitted a resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) asking the Government of Canada to:
• Create a home care refundable tax credit of 15% of up to $10,000 in annual retained home care services, for a total maximum benefit of $1,500
• Create a one-time refundable $10,000 tax credit toward special medical equipment and renovations, including hospital beds and patient lifts
If adopted by the CCC at the annual conference this fall, this will become a core part of the CCC’s advocacy platform for the next three years. It’s important to start making these investments now. Investments in home care saves money to taxpayers and people needing care while providing the level of care many desire.
Ontario has elected a Progressive Conservative government with an even larger majority, but with it comes increased expectations.
As a Chamber, we would like to congratulate all of our elected officials on their successful campaigns, including Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith, Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini, and Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott. We look forward to working with you to build a stronger community.
Additionally, we would like to thank all of our local candidates and their teams of volunteers who put in many hours knocking on doors, talking to residents, and tackling local issues. While it didn’t result in a seat in the legislature, those hours of community engagement have a substantial impact as we try to sort out our priorities for the future. Creating meaningful dialogue and grassroots momentum on local issues is at the core of the democratic process.
With the election behind us it’s time to put our attention on governance. The first term of this government saw a host of newly elected MPPs — but now most, including our local MPPS, are seasoned veterans. They dealt with a world-wide public health crisis, sky-rocketing housing prices, record-breaking inflation, and a major labour force and skills shortage. But now those issues aren’t new. The expectation is that re-electing local leaders should allow them to take the last four years of experience and planning to hit the ground running. We expect to see results.
Our role as a Chamber is to be non-partisan on the politics and push our elected representatives to act on local business and community issues. We welcome the support of all parties and candidates in progressing policy that will build, support and provide opportunities for the local business community to thrive.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has a four-point plan called Vote Prosperity which lays out priorities for our newly re-elected government
1. Improve Business Confidence and Predictability
Predictability is fundamental to business confidence, economic recovery and prosperity. Businesses need a stable policy environment with clear timelines, contracts, consultations, and strategies to help them plan for the future and make long-term investments. Given the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, Ontario must also bolster its pandemic preparedness in response to ongoing and future threats.
2. Foster Business and Economic Growth
The dual economic and public health crises of the past two years have left many businesses and households in Ontario with record levels of debt and financial instability. Pro-growth measures for business will fuel economic recovery. Ontario will need to focus on actions that support business access to the capital, markets, and talent that they need to grow.
3. Build Resilient Communities
A strong economy is built by healthy and resilient communities. Ontario will need to address challenges within our health care system, the ongoing impacts of climate change, access to housing, municipalities’ fiscal capacity to support regional economies, and infrastructure deficits.
4. Support Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Ontarians’ entrepreneurial spirit is one of the province’s greatest competitive advantages. Ontario will need to foster an environment that encourages new business ideas and investments to boost productivity and create the jobs of tomorrow.
Building a stronger business community over the next four years needs to involve social change as well, including greater engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities, investing in growth that helps meet our climate change goals, and addressing the mental health, addictions and poverty issues that have become much more visible in our communities.
While our expectations for building a stronger community are high, we don’t expect our politicians to do it alone. In fact, we prefer them not to. Besides their local Chamber of Commerce, there are a host of community organizations, non-profits, charities, businesses and residents that want to help. We’re invested in building a more sustainable and resilient community and our expectations involve our local leaders working with the talent, experience, and voices available in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.