Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force Recommendations Should Not Pass on Affordability Issues to the Next Generation – Masonry Works Council of Ontario

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Feb. 10, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The following is a statement issued by the Masonry Works Council of Ontario:

The report released by Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force (OHATF) has drawn much-deserved applause from residents and stakeholders from across the province. As a whole, the Masonry sector in Ontario supports the recommendations made by the task force to cut red tape and build 1.5-million housing units over the next ten years.

However, it remains imperative that the Province pay careful attention to sustained housing affordability beyond ten years through ensuring that increased quantity does not diminish the necessary quality to ensure the longevity of these developments.

The masonry industry also recommends that the Province consider the economic impact of favouring one material over another when developing housing affordability legislation.

We also ask that the province consider the importance of building design in alleviating local concerns voiced by residents regarding intensification in their community.

The majority of the recommendations in this report provide the Province with important guidance in addressing housing affordability in Ontario, and in general are supported by the masonry industry. However, the industry is asking the Province to consider the long-term implications of limiting the ability of municipalities to influence design and community character.

The cost of housing has increased significantly over the past ten years. The OHATF report indicates that, since 2011, the average house price in Ontario has increased from $329,000 to $923,000. The report also mentions that the housing crisis disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable Ontarians. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations will help all Ontarians by delivering needed intensification and streamlining approvals, while cutting down on misuse of the appeals process to stall developments.

The masonry industry wholly supports many of these recommendations that would increase both density and supply. However, it is important that affordable housing remains affordable for generations to come. If we are to consider the benchmark of affordable housing to be at 30% or less of household income it is important to factor in long-term maintenance costs as a good practice for sustainable affordability. Sustainable affordability means ensuring that housing units are durable and require minimal long-term maintenance interventions. One way to address this is to ensure that there is attention paid to exterior design which enables sustainability and durability over a prolonged life cycle for a building.

The housing affordability crisis disproportionally affects young people, New Canadians, racialized, marginalized and indigenous communities. Studies show that these Ontarians are also more disproportionally affected by the effects of climate change. Therefore, ensuring that affordable housing units are built to withstand increased extreme climate events through adaptation and mitigation is critical in ensuring that Ontario maintains affordable housing supply long term.

Local government is best equipped with knowledge on how the climate crisis is impacting their specific communities. Taking away local authority over exterior design diminishes this knowledge and leaves residents vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ontarians deserve to have input into how their neighbourhoods are planned and designed. New homeowners, especially those from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, deserve to live in homes that are both affordable and well-designed. The more corners we cut today, the more we kick the can down the road and leave today’s homebuyers with hidden costs to bear.

The report recommends that the provincial government enacts policies which enable the proliferation of wood frame construction over other materials. Again, the masonry industry urges the government to consider the long-term implications of such a decision. Over the full life cycle of a building concrete and masonry materials require less maintenance interventions; this means that over time these materials actually cost less and have less environmental impact. The masonry industry in Ontario plays an important role in helping the Government bring quality affordable housing to market. A policy which favours wood frame construction over other materials would have significant impacts on a long-standing Ontario industry which employs more than 14,000 people and contributes $1.3 billion to the province’s economy.   

Ontario will not solve the housing crisis by sacrificing good design and sustainable communities. Poor building design leads to higher costs down the road through increased maintenance and building envelope replacement. Studies have shown good design is not a major driver of costs or approval delays – much of this comes from bureaucratic delays. We encourage the Government to reject recommendations that would abolish local input on urban design matters, while proceeding with other reforms that would increase overall density, end single-home zoning, establish project timelines and disincentivize vexatious appeals.

Andrew Payne
Executive Director
Masonry Works Council of Ontario