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Canada must more than double the average number of homes built annually to meet the federal housing plan

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, and Housing Minister Sean Fraser, right, overlook the construction of new housing in Brampton, Ont., Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press.

Annual residential construction starts across Canada, from condos to bungalows, would need to more than double the average of the past 23 years to meet Ottawa’s ambitious target of 3.87 million new homes by 2031, ramping up extensively from previous years of stagnant construction.

Last month, the federal government announced Canada’s most recent Housing Plan. It seeks to build two million net residential units by 2031, in addition to the 1.87 million units that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation forecasts will be built regardless during the same time. A mix of loan and tax measures for developers, administered by the federal and provincial governments, have been enacted to boost housing construction.

To build 3.87 million new homes by 2031, Canada would need to see an average of 483,740 new residences each year for the next eight years. But the annual average between 2000 and 2023 was only 208,939.

Since 2000, the average growth of new construction on residential units has been 2.7 percent. If Canada maintained that current pace over the coming years, only 2.1 million additional homes would be built from 2023 to 2031.

To meet this 3.87 million housing goal described as “adjacent to impossible,” Canada would need to buck years of stagnant housing construction starts, shown in the chart below. As housing starts have failed to match Canada’s growing population, home prices have soared, while personal disposable income has been unable to keep up.

Canada could be building between 130,000 and 225,000 additional homes each year, or a total average of around 400,000, according to a report by CMHC, released this month. The hurdle is less to do with a lack of workers and materials, and more to do with municipal regulations and construction industry fragmentation, said the CMHC.

Delays in city permits being delivered, development charges, and density regulations are delaying developments and investment.

Nearly 69 percent of Canadian construction businesses have less than five employees. Their consolidation could generate a better economy for construction at scale, passing savings onto Canadians, explained the CMHC.

On Tuesday, the housing ministers for both the federal and Ontario governments, Sean Fraser and Paul Calandra, announced Ottawa would provide Ontario $357 million to meet its housing goals.

The deal requires Ontario to provide more data on how previous  provincial investment supported housing projects, and how future investment will support the housing industry and data collection at the city-level. Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada which provides  government housing funds through municipal leaders.

The agreement also means an end to months of disagreement over additional federal funding to Ontario. The federal government had said Queen’s Park didn’t provide enough detail for their planned use of $5.8 billion to create 19,660 rent-assisted residences by 2028. During the dispute, the federal government threatened to by-pass Queen’s Park by providing National Housing Strategy funding directly to Ontario municipalities.

London and Guelph, Ont., have already received $74 million and $21.4 million from Ottawa’s separate Housing Accelerator Fund, specifically for municipal governments.

London said it will help finance over 2,000 affordable homes in the next three years and incentivize office tower conversions. Guelph promised an additional 739 homes above its annual average. Windsor, Ont. was denied the same direct federal cash.

“Only the most ambitious communities will receive funding,” wrote minister Fraser in his letter to Windsor denying their application.

Further West, the government of Alberta has been critical of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy for provinces for its perceived lack of consultation.

“No information has been provided about whether funding will be provided per capita, to ensure it is not used for political gain,” said Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver and Minister of Seniors, Community, and Social Service Community Jason Nixon in a statement.

“We reject the idea that the provinces and territories should not be involved in this decision, as we are best positioned to understand the local housing needs and concerns of our communities,” they said.

More signal. Less noise. Welcome to The Hub’s new website!

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Today at The Hub we are excited to debut a brand-spanking website filled with new features, functionality, and perks to improve how you consume, interact with, and support our independent journalism and commentary. 

Let’s start with what we have built to help you better access our content, based on your feedback and the help of our developer Uncommon Sense.   

For starters, you are going to see a lot more use of colour. Each of our major content areas, from news, to commentary, to podcasts, to DeepDives, has a colour code. This will help you quickly scan our homepage and dig into the content you want, fast. You will also see on our homepage more curation of the stories that really matter and where we think you might productively spend your time. 

Staying on the theme of efficiency, you can now use our new continuous scroll function to seamlessly transition from one article to the next, without having to click away to another page on the site. You can also swipe right and left to scroll between thumbnail summaries of news articles, data graphics, commentaries, and long-form journalism. Our goal is to help you get to the content you want as quickly as possible, while also giving you a sense of everything we publish.  

If you let us keep a cookie on your web browser (note we have a strict privacy policy not to share your data with third parties) the site will start to learn what content you enjoy by topic area (e.g. economics versus politics) and format (e.g. news versus commentary). Your reading preferences will show up in a sidebar called “Recommended for You” and in continuous scroll. At any time, you can go to our home page and see all our content unfiltered by your reading habits. 

We are also announcing the integration of WhatsApp as The Hub’s interactive discussion forum, for our readers to analyse and debate the day’s news and commentary. We are excited by how WhatsApp can help us foster a two-way conversation with you about the issues you care about, allowing us to better understand what topics and debates you want to see in our digital pages day in and day out. The Hub’s WhatsApp community will feature two groups, one where you will be sent The Hub’s latest news and commentary each day directly to your device. The other will serve as a discussion board for readers to debate the issues.

Note that the new Hub WhatsApp community will replace Hub Forum, our current daily web-based discussion thread. Thank you to everyone who took part in Hub Forum! 

One big difference with the new site is that you will begin to see that some content is accessible to subscribers only. We are doing this selectively to reward our users who have gone the extra mile to financially support our independent journalism. So, what does this change mean for you as a regular Hub reader? 

First, if you are a Hub Fellow or previously were a paid Hub subscriber you automatically have access to all the paid content on the website, in our new and improved newsletters, and on our podcast feed. For Fellows, this access is for as long as The Hub keeps publishing. For previously paid-up subscribers (monthly or annual), this is for six months starting June 1, 2024, and encompasses the benefits summarized in our new Hub Hero membership level. To reiterate, if you were a paid-up subscriber as of May 2024 all your benefits remain the same and they are grandfathered until November 30th of this year.  

To access subscriber-only content on the new website, simply input the email associated with your existing Hub subscription when prompted. You will be automatically enrolled in our new paid newsletters and as a valued financial contributor, you will have access to the full-length editions of all our podcasts. 

If you are not a paid subscriber, you can continue to access TheHub.ca. The choice is yours: either pay-as-you-go to read our best content or join at one of three different subscription levels starting at $10 per year. You can upgrade to the next subscription level at any time by only paying the difference. Each level unlocks more benefits and again supports our independent journalism. 

This is both an exciting and uncertain time for digital news and commentary outlets like The Hub. In the space of just a few years, our industry has been transformed by fast-changing consumer habits (e.g. most young people get their news, alas, on TikTok), massive government intervention into the funding of newsrooms in Canada, and across-the-board declines in once semi-reliable revenue sources such as email newsletters and digital subscriptions.

But against this increasingly volatile backdrop, The Hub is thriving. In the last 30 days, and just three years since our founding, over one million users engaged directly with one part or another of our digital publishing platform encompassing TheHub.ca, our email newsletters, podcasts, and social media. 

And we are still growing. We are adding new reporting capacities, such as data visualization journalism. The depth and sophistication of our commentary offering supersedes anything in the mainstream media. Our podcast feed is generating over a million annual downloads per year. Our new DeepDives series is driving the public conversation on important policy issues. And we are doing all this without taking a dollar in government subsidies, ensuring we remain genuinely independent and beholden only to our subscribers.  

In sum, we hope you enjoy the new website and continue to make The Hub an essential part of your daily news routine. And please keep your feedback and comments coming to editorial@thehub.ca. Many of your suggestions and ideas helped shape the website’s new design and functionality. 

Thank you! 

Rudyard Griffiths, publisher
Sean Speer, editor-at-large
Harrison Lowman, managing editor
Luke Smith, deputy editor
Amal Attar-Guzman, content editor & podcast producer
Alisha Rao, content coordinator
Kiernan Green, data visualization journalist
Taylor Jackson, research & prize manager