WoodGreen and the Toronto Region Board of Trade have worked together on the Housing a Generation of Essential Workers report series with three goals in mind: to draw attention to the challenge of creating affordable workforce housing, identify solutions that provide housing for essential workers and encourage key partners to act on this urgent issue.
As we begin to look to a new post-pandemic reality, the third and final report in our series, The Costs of Inaction, provides a stark assessment of how a shortage of affordable workforce housing is already harming our Region’s economy and society – and will cause even greater harm in the near future, if nothing is done.
Jan De Silva: (silence)
[00:01:30] Hello everyone. I'm Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto region, Board of Trade. Welcome to today's event, the finale [00:02:00] in our Housing a Generation of Essential Workers series. This week, we also launched our third and final housing report in that series. Work on these reports began in 2019, it feels like so much has changed since then, but rather than distract from the issue of housing, the pandemic brought the need for affordable communities into a sharper and even more pressing focus. We learned our city cannot function without essential workers, many of [00:02:30] whom are being priced out of Toronto. Today we'll talk about that and other costs of unaffordable housing and what's at risk if we don't act. Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge that Toronto is home to diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples, though, you could be watching from anywhere, the board's offices are located on the traditional territory of many indigenous nations and reconciliation should always be part of equitable housing of strategies.
A few [00:03:00] other opening notes. Today's webcast is presented in partnership with WoodGreen Community Services and TD Bank. Two partners who've been with us from the very start of this series, and without whom this important work could not have been made possible. As well, all board webcasts are supported by our principle sponsors, The Globe and Mail and Scotia Bank. A recording of today's event will be available at supportbusiness.bot.com, under webinars and videos. Select click [00:03:30] here to switch stream if your video is lagging or request help for any other technical issues. Use the Q&A feature to the right to ask questions of our a panel joining later. And if you haven't already, I suggest you download the report through the option to the right. The first two reports, one identifying the problem, the other modeling solutions, lay much of the groundwork for today's conversation.
Yet, when we talk about housing, we often drift into future tense, [00:04:00] the problems a too expensive city will cause, or the people who will eventually move away. But our research in this latest report reveals that we're already paying a high cost for Toronto's unaffordable market. WoodGreen's Michelle German will speak later this morning about this research, but let me highlight the big number, $8 billion, that's how much is being drained out of our region's economy every year because of housing costs, some of [00:04:30] the highest in North America, much of that comes in the form of wage premiums paid by businesses. Employers have to offer a position for on average 10 to 12% more per pay than the same job in another city, just to remain attractive. Even then they risk high turnover, as the city gets more expensive each year. And industries that can't pay the premium, like those that are hiring teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers, face the biggest [00:05:00] risk of their workforce packing up and moving out, despite how essential these roles are.
But our desire to curb wage premiums through more affordable housing is more than just protecting the bottom line for businesses. Like with most things related to economic development, there's a ripple effect. When we bleed $8 billion a year out of our economy, businesses go under, which means fewer jobs. We lose the shops and venues that provide entertainment, culture, and a sense of personality [00:05:30] to our neighborhoods. All of which will be crucial as we piece back together our visitor economy post COVID. This is all to say housing isn't just about where people live, it's deeply connected to how people work, spend money and experience this region. Unless we act now, we'll continue to lose that $8 billion every year and more.
Fortunately, there are champions for this cause and this call to action, one being Leo Salom. [00:06:00] Leo is Chair of the Board of Trade and the past Chair of the WoodGreen Foundation, a connection that initially sparked this series. Leo, a big thanks to you for your support and to TD for all the funding and engagement you've put behind these efforts. I'm so very glad to welcome you to share a few words, Leo.
Leo Salom: Jan, I appreciate you giving me credit for championing affordable housing, but really it's a critical issue for our city. Allowing Toronto to get more and more [00:06:30] expensive each year without taking appropriate action, puts a hard cap on our future potential. Talent, investment, innovation, all of it starts to go elsewhere when only a fraction of our workforce can live here, and the workers will lose. They are crucial to our lives. As Jan said, the industry's less able to pay a wage premium to keep employees here, those in education, healthcare, sanitation, they've always been essential. Even outside of the pandemic, schools, hospitals and public services, [00:07:00] they define a city's quality of life, which in turn impacts large companies decisions to invest in Toronto and create more jobs here. And that's really the message of this report, that housing is both a social concern and an economic one.
So the question becomes, how do we tackle this issue, in a time when there are so many new demands on our economic recovery and so many areas for government to invest, how do we prioritize and create a plan for housing? [00:07:30] Our hope is that this report series does a lot of that work. Importantly, it takes a solutions oriented approach. In fact, the entire second report examines housing models that Toronto can and should scale. And this latest installment builds on those models even further. To be clear, these are achievable solutions, we know that because we're already seeing them in action. Take Toronto's modular housing initiative, City Hall took that initiative from idea to occupancy in just eight months [00:08:00] and all during a pandemic. Using this model, 100 studio apartments became available for people experiencing homelessness. And that project was such a success, the city is already approved a construction for another 150 units.
And while modular housing does offer some shortcuts, that's the speed we should be applying to all of our housing projects. There's incredible potential to do the same for our middle income and essential workers with Toronto's big ambitious targets of building 40,000 [00:08:30] affordable units by 2030. But it's not just about speed, it's also about partnership. To use another example, earlier this year, Sun Life, Daniels, WoodGreen and the city signed a public private partnership agreement for new residential development in Regent Park. The agreement meant that about 10% of the 346 units in the development became dedicated long term affordable rental units for single mothers. This should be a blueprint for how we create projects. By making room at [00:09:00] the table for private, public and social service organizations, we can ensure that affordable housing is being prioritized across developments. These are just two examples that give me hope that the problem of Toronto's housing market isn't too far out of our control.
Yes, we have some of the highest housing costs in North America, but we also have some of the brightest minds and most importantly, a culture of inclusion. Combine those strengths together, and we can correct the path that we're on, protecting [00:09:30] the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and becoming a global leader in building affordable housing. And speaking of bright minds, in addition to Jan and the team at the board, this series would not have been possible without WoodGreen Community Services, including their Vice President of Policy and Strategy, Michelle German, who's here with us today. I want to thank Michelle and our team for not only being a critical provider of housing services in the community, but also for continuing to make Toronto a livable, diverse [00:10:00] and inclusive city. Now I invite her to share some of the findings from the research report, I want to thank you all again for joining us today, Michelle, over to you.
Michelle German: Thank you Leo, and thank you Jan, for that great introduction, making my job easy here, and thank you everyone in the audience for joining us today. As Jan noted, this event represents the culmination of hard work and dedication over the last almost two years to produce this series, Housing a Generation of Essential Workers. [00:10:30] By demonstrating the need for affordable workforce housing in the Toronto region, WoodGreen and the board have been able to identify new gaps in housing that need to be filled to ensure that our city and its residents can continue to thrive or thrive if they haven't already. The series gives us new insights into models of housing that we need more of across the city, as well as the data that creates a sense of urgency behind a need for action, to build the right kind of housing for the right kind of people [00:11:00] in the places that they need immediately.
Let's take a look at what we've learned so far in this report series, slideshow, please. It's no secret that people of all incomes are feeling squeezed, no matter where they're living, by housing costs in Toronto. One in five renters live in overcrowded units. Nearly half of them spend more than 30% of their income on rent. We see that essential workers, including those who have bravely [00:11:30] worked with the city's most vulnerable throughout the pandemic, are feeling squeezed the most, and are finding more and more that they can't afford to live in the city that serve. Next slide.
This is why we came together with the board and with support from TD, to investigate how workers were affected by this challenge. This series has really three goals throughout all of it. One, to draw attention to the pressing need of affordable housing, [00:12:00] two, to identify solutions and provide housing for essential workers, and three, encourage key partners to act on this urgent issue. Next slide.
In the first report, the research focused on the challenges, many of which we're all familiar with, associated with finding affordable housing in Toronto, and examined the best practices from other jurisdictions to inform how we can accelerate the development of workforce housing in our city. [00:12:30] In our first report, we recommended best practices, including having the support of brave visionary leaders, using available resources and strong partnerships, community engagement, and prioritizing the end user, which means building housing with the people who are going to live there in mind. Next slide.
Having defined the problem, the second report examined several existing and merging housing model case studies, to [00:13:00] gauge what could be scaled to meet Toronto's workforce housing needs. It's an urgent issue, but we don't have to start from scratch. Next slide.
And today we are thrilled to share the third and final installment, which describes the economic and social costs of inaction on affordable workforce housing. Next slide.
By looking at the economic and social costs of inaction on affordable [00:13:30] housing, our final report presents the consequences of what is to come if nothing is done to address this problem, or if not enough is done to address this problem. Bold action is called for to address the shortage of affordable workforce housing and to mitigate the negative economic and social effects that are already occurring. Next slide.
To make this report possible, we partnered with Prism Economics, who conducted a vital research [00:14:00] and analysis. For the economic analysis, Prism examined certain key industries that are most likely to bear the economic effects of system under supply of housing, including things like higher turnover, hiring costs, impact on competitiveness and out of region job migration. Next slide.
Our research and analysis, we would say conservatively estimates that the direct and indirect [00:14:30] economic costs of the GTA's housing and affordability crisis are between 5.8 and $7.9 billion per year. That's almost $8 billion per year conservatively estimated, which Jan pointed out. If we continue on this pathway forward, we must ask what kind of city are we building. And highlights four key factors that are driving these numbers, the first is pressure on wages and salaries, then there's migration [00:15:00] out of the GTA, productivity loss from long commute and employee turnover and additional recruitment costs. Over a five year period, the cumulative losses would be almost 30 to $37.9 billion. Next slide.
In addition to the economic costs, social costs were looked at. How could we not talk about social costs? It's [00:15:30] the thing that bring us all together. Though much harder to calculate, we found several societal impacts, like worsening gender inequality, especially considering a lot of the effects on women out of the pandemic, poor quality of education and reduced caregiver support for our aging population. As these impacts become more pronounced, more and more residents will be pushed out of the city. [00:16:00] We, at WoodGreen, see the value in addressing this important issue. As the city's largest non municipal affordable housing provider, we grapple every day with the ever-growing wait list of families and individuals who find Toronto unaffordable. Next slide.
Workforce housing is only one piece of Toronto's housing needs, but it's an essential one. There's an increasing competition for social and low cost rental housing [00:16:30] by middle income workers who have run out of options. This domino effect means that if we build more workforce housing, we can free up these in demand units and help compliment other efforts to reduce homelessness. It's a whole ecosystem, every piece needs to be thought about and working together in order to have success. At WoodGreen, we're an employer of almost 700 essential workers, and so we know intimately the benefits of both employee and the community [00:17:00] when staff live close to where they live and work and play. Research shows by building homes close to employment, we can reduce commutes, congestion, air pollution, while improving workers quality of life and productivity.
This final report, which I hope you all will download and read, presents the and negative consequences of what is to come if nothing is done to address the problem. We are seeing a city getting built that isn't for everyone, but there [00:17:30] are solutions as well, we are all optimist here. Bold action is called for to mitigate these effects, and we believe that we have what we need in the city, and we have the right people and the right things to get it done.
In order to explore this conversation a bit more, we'll be hearing from an expert panel. They will explore these solutions and dig into some of these numbers. To moderate this discussion, I would like to pass the mic to Craig Ruttan, my wonderful collaborator, [00:18:00] and co-author on this report series. Craig is the Policy Director for energy, housing and economic enablers, basically everything, at the Toronto region Board of Trade, he brings a wealth of expertise on our topic today. Welcome Craig.
Craig Ruttan: Thank you so much, Michelle, for those kind words and for that presentation, and for all the work that we've been doing together in partnership also with TD on this report. Let's build on Michelle's comments, by diving straight [00:18:30] into our panel discussion. Joining us is Jay-Ann Gilfoy, the CEO of Vancity Community Investment Bank. The bank's mandate is to ensure money is being put to environmental, social, and community good, for organizations and neighborhoods. Jay-Ann brings more than 20 years of senior experience to that mission, and she works closely us at the board, as chair of our housing affordability policy committee. Welcome Jay-Ann. Also joining us-
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: [inaudible 00:18:57].
Craig Ruttan: Great. Thank you. Also joining us is Mwarigha, [00:19:00] who sits on this panel as both WoodGreen's Vice President of Housing and Homeless Services, as well as a member of the BlackNorth Initiatives housing committee, which is aiming to help more Black working class families buy their own homes. He's no stranger to these events, having spoken at our previous series installment. Great to see you again, Mwarigha.
Mwarigha: Great to see you too.
Craig Ruttan: And finally, rounding out our panel, is Patricia Roset-Zuppa, the Vice President of policy at CMHC. Much of our discussion today will be about how governments [00:19:30] can in able more affordable housing, and as someone who's been at CMHC for an outstanding 12 years, Patricia is perfectly positioned to speak federal organization's priorities. Welcome Patricia.
Patricia Roset-...: Thank you.
Craig Ruttan: If you are watching and have a question for the panel, please submit it through the window to the right. And as you do, I'll get the conversation started with a few questions of my own. First Jay-Ann, from your perspective, how has COVID-19 shifted the [00:20:00] urgency to act on affordable housing in general and affordable workforce housing in particular?
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: Well, I was listening to Jan and Leo and Michelle present and I think it's increased, it certainly hasn't decreased, the urgency is greater than it was 12 months ago, and I think it's going to be even greater 12 months from now. Our work is really focused on everything, from keeping people off the street [00:20:30] through the relationships that we've been able to finance for homelessness, making sure that people have a home, all the way through to home ownership. And I think as we talked [inaudible 00:20:40] there are tons of models available, but the urgency has increased, Toronto wants to do 40,000, I think Leo was saying, homes in Toronto and at the bank, I think we've only financed about 1500. So the gap is massive between what we need and [00:21:00] what we're actually doing.
And the combined efforts of everybody on this panel, plus all kinds of other organizations out there, who are trying to solve the problem, is amazing, but we need to go faster. It's a big issue, the stats that we have in this report, the things that we know about Toronto being the most unaffordable city in North America, worse than New York, worse than LA, really speaks to the fact that things are urgent, and layer on top of that, we we've known that there's going to be a talent [00:21:30] challenge for many, many organizations for a while demographically, but you add on the fact that some people who've been fortunate enough to work remotely, like us on this panel, have choices, they don't have to drive for two hours into a city.
So you have an added talent crunch, that if we can't figure out how to house essential workers and the employees that really matter to make the business run, [00:22:00] and I would put a whole bunch of frontline workers in that, as well as health and education, it's going to be very difficult to do the work that we do for our children, for our parents, for our communities, in cities like Toronto. And I would argue it's now Peterborough and it's Barrie, and it's a whole bunch of other cities, it's not just downtown Toronto. So all that to say, I think COVID-19 has certainly highlighted the gap and who knew the gap would get so [00:22:30] much significantly worse than it was a year ago.
Craig Ruttan: Thank you for that, Jay-Ann, completely agree. And great point about how much it's rippled out beyond the major city to other communities. Patricia, I'd like to come to you next. CMHC has been working on implementing the federal government's national housing strategy. In terms of the work that you're doing, how much does the economic impact of the housing issue factor into that, in addition to, or compared to the social factors?
Patricia Roset-...: [00:23:00] Yeah. Thank you so much for that question, it's a very good and important one. And I want to say, thanks for having me on the panel. I'm joining you from Ottawa, which is the traditional unseated territory of the Algonquin and [inaudible 00:23:13] people. And I actually ended up in Ottawa because I felt priced out of the Toronto market at the time, wanting to stay downtown, had left Toronto for a number of years and felt priced out. And that was 12 years ago. So very timely to be on this [00:23:30] panel. But to come back to your question, I would say that is very much both economic and social factors that are top of mind for us as we look at housing issues and policy solutions. And you mentioned the role that federal government is playing through the national housing strategy.
So the national housing strategy was something that was launched in 2017, it's a long term strategy, there is a 10 year funding behind it, a $70 billion [00:24:00] plan. And it's really about providing housing solutions and enabling housing across what we call the housing continuum. So from homelessness, to shelters, community housing, as well as affordable rental, and all the way up to home ownership. So really very much taking a housing system approach. When we look at the core principles that the national housing strategy was based on, it was based on people or it is based on people, communities [00:24:30] and partnerships. So it goes well beyond just a bricks and mortar to build housing. It is first and foremost focused on the most vulnerable people, people in greatest need of affordable housing, that includes seniors, women and children fleeing violence, homeless individuals, racialized communities, but it is also very much about building, I would say, wholesome communities, building communities that are socially inclusive, [00:25:00] where people can live close to work, transit, services.
And that very much includes social housing, community housing, any type of housing to ensure that essential workers can also live in the communities really that they serve. So we really build the national housing strategy around a notion that housing plays a key important role in community building and strengthening those local economies. So when we look at investments [00:25:30] the federal government is making, together with other levels of government and private sector, it's supporting construction related jobs across the country, it's enabling that construction of workforce housing. We have initiatives such as the national housing co-investment fund, it provides loans, it provides contributions to enable developers and housing providers to really build that housing integrated in communities, close to [00:26:00] services.
And then just to come back to the last principles that the housing strategies is built on, is around partnerships, and I've heard a lot about that already in some of the other remarks that were made this morning. As we know, housing is expensive, it's capital intense, it really requires all the various levels of government, the private sector, the nonprofit sector, to be very much involved, to play [00:26:30] a part in helping improve economic stability through job creation, training, support local enterprise. So very much as we look at housing solutions, supporting workers building those really socially inclusive and sustainable communities, it's very much intertwined the social and economic impacts, I would say.
Craig Ruttan: Very well put. Thanks, Patricia. [00:27:00] Mwarigha, wondering if you can share some insights on some scalable models that encourage public, private community partnerships for building affordable housing. And in particular, I'm hoping you can also touch on and tell us a bit more about the BlackNorth Initiatives home ownership bridge program.
Mwarigha: Yeah. All right. Thank you, Craig. Just to reinforce some of the things that have been said before, in context in my response, I think the one thing that I want [00:27:30] to just continue to emphasize that I love about the work that WoodGreen and the Toronto Board of Trade, and all the other partners have been doing around this initiative, is focusing on the affordability problem with a real intent on helping certain key sectors of our population, like the workforce, talking about how we can bring land and financial tools, using a strategic partnership approach that has community, [00:28:00] private and nonprofits and other sectors that contribute together, I think is something we just need to keep emphasizing. Because it's the difference between what we want to do segueing from post COVID, because we don't want to recreate the same solo approach to trying to solve the problem and saying, maybe that's a problem only for the nonprofit or only for people who have workforce.
[00:28:30] And so I want to emphasize that. And also just to also say that this moment is giving us an opportunity to not only take in the economic cost of doing nothing, but also the lost opportunity to create new solutions and add to the traditional ones that we have. And what that has done for us in terms of working with the partnerships that we have developed, is we've discovered [00:29:00] that it has created a lot of room for innovation, it has created a lot of room for redesigning and rethinking what we're building. And we think that that's the space that we need to create, in order to get to the target in Toronto of 40,000 units and nationally, to address the problem that was well illustrated by all the reports.
The reports give a lot of examples about how [00:29:30] you can create models that are not just scalable, but in particular, that help you to multiply the number of solutions, and also to be able to [inaudible 00:29:41]. We have examples from BC, we have examples like Artscape in Toronto. I'm not going to dwell into that, but I just want to return to the example to illustrate what I was saying, that Leo started to talk about between WoodGreen and Evolve. And it happened at the time [00:30:00] when we started this conversation, it also happened at a time when WoodGreen was building its own housing and going through the usual cycle of four years to produce 34 units for seniors, using, in its own way, innovative combination of the city, open door funds, the federal new co-investment fund, and also social finance from new commons and new market.
And at that [00:30:30] time I said, "We're doing 34, we'll have to wait another cycle," and the partnership with Daniels and Sun Life, I think in that conversation, and that's the important thing, the partnerships are platforms where you can actually have a conversation that will innovate versus saying, "You're regulated to do this. You're compelled to do this as a developer." And they said, "Well, we can get you another 34 units, so that by the time you move in the [00:31:00] other 34 that you're building for, you will have twice that number." And I says, "So how are we going to do that?" And he says, "Well, we have a building of 346 units, purpose built, and we can get you 34 units, that's our contribution. And we want to be part of the solution to this whole problem and part of the conversations, so how do we do this?" Well, you've lost the window for such incentives as the development charges. [00:31:30] So maybe what we need to do is talk to the city and get a capital grant for us to finance, to support that for the units.
And then we talked about, well, it has to be affordable at 80% [inaudible 00:31:44], which is closer to about $1,100. And we wanted purposely for our Homeward Bound clients that are graduating from a very successful program, and have joined the workforce, and if they don't have good housing, it will really [00:32:00] compromise their ability to take advantage of that four years that is an opportunity building process. And so they said, "That's fine. We will do that together." And I said, "Well, how fast can we do that?" I said, "It's taken me four years to build." And he says, "Well, we can do this as fast as you want us to do it. It'll probably take us a year because we need to go through some legal issues, we need to talk to the city." And so the speed at which we delivered this, [00:32:30] was just equally impressive, and that's the whole issue of how you get to 40,000 quickly.
And then we talked about other financial implications and we settled at a long term lease of 40 years. We could have planned it anywhere else, but that sounded like the best sweet spot for WoodGreen because it removed us from long term operating and capital liability issues, and allowed us to, at the same time, create a product that's long enough, that [00:33:00] we can cycle. And so that, for me, is part of what we need to replicate, those kinds of solutions when people come together. In the case of BlackNorth, which I am extremely invested in, again, we have brought together minds of over 30 influential Canadian leaders. Many of them who run businesses, many who come from a number of key leaders from the construction industry, from the developer industry, [00:33:30] from the nonprofit, including WoodGreen, including Habitat for Humanity and taking that energy and creativity it to say, how can we address systemic issues of racism, and in particular, the wealth gap that the Black population experiences, while at the same time, solve some of these workforce problems.
So focus on workforce, people from the Black community earning about 60 to 65K, it's [00:34:00] not just renting, but also moving into an equity wealth based creation. And the magic again, of this coming together is why don't we create a bridge program and coddle together philanthropy, federal dollars, federal incentive city programs for affordable home ownerships, as well as the regional municipalities, and come up with a way to create a bridge program that essentially [00:34:30] backstops a second mortgage on top of the first mortgage that the clients pay, and make sure that the program we create has long term affordability implications, either through a shared equity approach that we inject or a buyback approach at the end of the tenure, when the owners want to move on or want to sell. But at the same time, [00:35:00] are left with significant equity that allows them to do what every thriving middle class person is able to do, leave something for their kids, pay for their university, et cetera, et cetera, and augment their own pension funds.
And so those are two examples that really just mimic those fundamental principles of being intentional, coming together and creating a strategic partnership, creating very specific financial tools and leveraging land [00:35:30] and other traditional incentives that are provided through municipalities to produce results very quickly.
Craig Ruttan: Thank you so much, Mwarigha. Those are two very powerful examples, that I think your wrap up there, you hit pretty much every principle of a good workforce housing model that we discussed in our second report. So thank you for sharing those. Patricia, I'd like to come back to you. You have a great national vantage point from where you sit, what are the challenges and opportunities for developing [00:36:00] affordable workforce housing?
Patricia Roset-...: That's a really excellent question, but that's a complex one. If it was easy to do it, we would've figured it out and would've done a lot more already. But I think just reading reports and hearing what some of the great work is already underway, it's very inspiring actually to see a lot of these partnerships that have come together. When [00:36:30] we look at some of the challenges and opportunities to increase supply of affordable workforce housing, a lot of that, I would say, is linked to partnership. That ability to work together across governments, private sector, the nonprofit sector, and bringing those forces together, and not just with traditional models, but also with thinking about other innovation that we can consider. I think the other challenge [00:37:00] and opportunity and necessary ingredient is that political will and the public will as well.
We also know that there's a high cost of land, there can be restrictive land use policies, density limits, development fees, among other challenges that really impede the development of denser and affordable supply. And we talk a lot about sometimes the cost of land, for example, the availability of it, [00:37:30] the issue of nimbyism that keeps coming up and that we often grapple with as well and talk to others about, and what is it, how can we actually overcome some of this, because the nimbyism comes back to some of the political will as well. And a challenge and an opportunity to me in terms of affordable workforce housing is overcoming that nimbyism, thinking about how we can communicate or [00:38:00] make other people see as well, that to build communities that are inclusive and where you can take your children to the local library, and you can go have your coffee at Starbucks and really live in a community like that, you need to be able to build the housing that is affordable for anyone who serves that community, whether that's essential [00:38:30] workers and others in various income brackets.
There's been a recent expert panel on the future of housing supply and affordability in British Columbia, that came out with a report. It was a joint federal provincial panel that looked at some of these issues that we're talking about now as well, and many measures to increase supply of housing. And their final report came [00:39:00] out just about a month ago or so, and it really concluded that housing supply supported by governments, will continue to be necessary to support overall affordability. And they looked at a number of challenges and opportunities as well, looking at the ensuring that there's a planning framework that proactively encourages housing, reforming fees for property development, expanding the existing supply of community and affordable housing, [00:39:30] improving coordination among all levels of government. And we're very are aware of that, we have excellent relations with provincial, territorial relationships, municipal governments, but there's a lot of coordination to be done and so much better that we can do.
And I would say in the context of supply and ensuring that we build affordable housing and workforce housing, the [00:40:00] other challenge and opportunity is also to ensure we don't lose any existing supply of housing. So that is still something that we continue to see, where either through natural demolition that happens or conversion of housing that is more affordable, or just by sheer increase in rents, where we're seeing a loss of affordability. And that's a challenge because [00:40:30] we're adding new supply, but we want to, on a net basis of course, be better off.
So challenges, but lots of opportunities, lots of really great examples that we heard about here already, around partnerships with public and private sectors. I will highlight another, just one particular example of one, which is called the rapid housing initiative, which was introduced last year [00:41:00] by the federal government of a billion dollars, and another one and a half billion was added to that. Where we were working closely with municipalities to build housing for people in greatest needs, we heard some really excellent examples of Toronto, what Toronto was able to do. So I think demonstrating what is possible and what is possible if there's political will, when there's public will, when there's funding behind it, that we can do things more quickly, [00:41:30] to really do make a difference and work together on that.
Craig Ruttan: Thanks so much, Patricia. Yeah, we absolutely, it's a massive challenge, but we can't lose sight of the fact that there have been successes and that every piece helps for sure. Jay-Ann, coming back to you. How do you think the private sector could become more engaged in addressing this challenge of affordable workforce housing?
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: Well, I think from a financial institution perspective, [00:42:00] we have certainly lived to our mission of putting the tools of finance in service of helping to address social, environmental and economic inclusion issues. And so I think there is a greater role for financial institutions, for sure, to be able to look at projects that come forward, like the things that we're talking about with WoodGreen or others, Habitat, to look at those as not a higher risk category. [00:42:30] So I think there's been some traditional thinking around these are run primarily by not for profit organizations, they potentially have a higher risk, they're not looked at the same, there's some regulatory concerns. But really when you strip it away and I'm sure the data would show in our experience, both in Vancouver and Vancity, and also in the bank, is that these are very low risk financing deals because there's commitment, there's partnership, there's strong boards, [00:43:00] there's community involvement. And people who finally get somewhere to rent or to own, take that very seriously, they need a home and it's the first thing that they pay for.
So I think part of it is a mind shift around this area, and we're definitely starting to see it, which is fantastic. So lots of organizations that we're talking to, private sector developers who really now are getting it, that they have to be able to provide this for all of the right incentives [00:43:30] that are out there, to have a portion, at least a portion of the developments affordable. But more than that, I think we're seeing some really innovative developers thinking around this asset class as lower risk, because it's long term rental, it's got a long term tail on it. So that means that they're looking at it as a significant investment, so funds are starting to be developed to help support it. So I'm very encouraged by what we're seeing happen in the private sector, but I do agree that it's all about partnerships [00:44:00] and partnerships that have your organizations who really understand the community.
So we worked with other organizations like the Parkdale Land Trust, who is deeply embedded in the Parkdale community. We brought investors, we brought community involvement, and then you bring the money and it all comes together as we talked about, WoodGreen and the partnerships there, or Artscape, there's a lot of models and opportunities, I think. So I [00:44:30] think the private sector includes developers, it includes financial institutions, it includes employers in this conversation because I think there is a big role to be played by employers who have land, who have assets, who now potentially have buildings that employees won't be coming back to full time. Can we leverage that to move things faster?
So I think the momentum is impressive and expanding, and I think it's about breaking down [00:45:00] some of those barriers that exist, in terms of the processes and the amount of paperwork, for lack of a better word, that many organizations need to go through to get the project done, like four years to do 34 units, that's not acceptable. We need to be able to move a lot faster. So I think that requires a whole bunch of involvement, but I think what private sector can help with is typically many private owned organizations move fast, so [00:45:30] having us listen to how to do things better, faster, more efficiently, I think is part of the private sector's role. But definitely from four years ago when we started to really dig into how do we help with the affordability issue in the GTA, to today, I think it's starting a completely different picture, which is very encouraging.
Craig Ruttan: Absolutely. Yeah, very strong points and glad to see that that understanding continues to grow. [00:46:00] Thanks so much Jay-Ann. And partnerships is clearly a very prominent theme in our discussion, so I'll use that as the jumping off point Mwarigha, for the next question. What kind of multi-sector partnerships would you like to see created, that can perhaps be even more successful at delivering housing projects?
Mwarigha: Yeah. So just to pick up from my previous conversation about our partnership with Evolve, what we have seen [00:46:30] now, and we've been working on, is the opportunity to be able to take advantage of building these in, what I call intentional partnerships. And intentional, because they're not just ... we have fairly strong policy regulatory obligations for developers and people who are trying to get into housing, but what we're exploring a lot more is [00:47:00] the notion of creating this intentional creative partnerships with developers. So what we've done is taken our learnings from the Evolve, we've created a new term sheet, and we've gone out to the market and are speaking to some very willing developer and the city about replicating some of that model. We have pretty much close to 400 [00:47:30] units pledged for the next three, four years through similar types of partnership.
So that's one thing that we're continuing to do in order to grow from that. But what we are also working on is recognizing the barriers that nonprofits face in participating in this space, in particular, in addressing the equity, but also recognizing that the nonprofit sector [00:48:00] is a key player in ensuring the long term stewardship of affordability and affordable housing, is we're working on a affordable housing equity fund. And the purpose of the equity fund is to leverage, to put together, to bring together those similar forces, the government and the funding incentives that they provide. But even more intentionally, [00:48:30] we think there's bigger bang if we get governments to backstop this kind of a fund, in addition to the direct funding, because it starts to de-risk the sector and create the opportunities that Jay-Ann was just talking about, that people are beginning to get comfortable.
And once we [inaudible 00:48:55] financial tool, as well as encourage also the space of [00:49:00] social impact finance, which is also coming together, and continue to engage developers in the example, and the construction industry, in the example that we gave with the BlackNorth Initiative, if we can bring those tools together in a cohesive way, like a clearinghouse platform, I think we can get there really fast, in getting to the 40,000. [00:49:30] The traditional methods of putting out single RFPs for people to compete about something they all believe they want to get to, is slow and cumbersome, and we need something that takes advantage of that strategic partnership value that we are beginning to learn and have modeled in a way that we can actually show examples. So I think [00:50:00] that's the way for us to go, going forward.
Craig Ruttan: Thanks Mwarigha, that sounds really promising. I'm excited to see what can come from that fund. We're now turning to some questions from our audience, they've been rolling in, so thank you for being so engaged. The first question actually aligns with a comment you made in your earlier remarks, Patricia, around nimbyism and the challenge of fighting those forces. So what else needs to change? [00:50:30] How can governments maybe be better positioned to move affordable housing forward, when every site plan proposal, every individual project, no matter how big or who it's meant to be serving, seems to trigger some form of local pushback?
Patricia Roset-...: Yeah. I don't know that I have the magic answer for that question, but I think it does come down to the political will as well, and putting out reports like these and continue [00:51:00] to work on, I think the economic and social business case for this, so that it's clear to politicians at all levels of government, but also that it's clear to local community organizations or local neighborhood associations, what the benefits are economically and socially for their communities to support any type of development like that, and what the implications are of not supporting that development or not supporting as much of the density. [00:51:30] Because I think that's equally a really important view to have, what are the implications where you are not supporting that development, whether it's density or different forms of housing, et cetera, because there will be implications.
And we see it already in Toronto and outer communities, we've seen it in other countries. I've witnessed it when I lived in the states for a number of years, just before [00:52:00] the financial crash, where there was a real problem trying to even attract good teachers into particular communities, because they could not live in the communities where they were meant to work and where there were job opportunities. So I think highlighting implications to the public, to politicians of not supporting it, I think is equally important. So any kind of evidence around research and data to make that case is very [00:52:30] important, including the work that we're highlighting here through the reports that you have put out.
Craig Ruttan: That's great. Thanks, Patricia. Yeah, those are very good points. We have another question that's come in about inclusionary zoning. Wondering if any of you see inclusionary zoning making a significant contribution to affordable housing supply? I'm not sure who wants to, Jay-Ann, are you willing to take that first?
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: I don't think I'm the right person to take that one.
Craig Ruttan: All right. Mwarigha, what do [00:53:00] you think?
Mwarigha: Yeah, I think inclusion rezoning, it's one of those tools that of course, are going to compel developers to [inaudible 00:53:17] more affordable housing within the existing development that they have. And I also think that at the other end of it, [00:53:30] however, it will not necessarily address the space or neighborhood inequalities, in where affordable housing is. Because if we continue to peg affordability only to the high value properties or high value zones, we will have to introduce, and I'm not suggesting it's a bad instrument, [inaudible 00:53:56] to [00:54:00] ensure that those areas that are deemed to have not as viable residual value, and therefore have less of an obligation, that those obligations are also incentivized. So it's a good start, but it does need some other tools on top of that, in order to bring equity as part of this whole issue of addressing affordability throughout the city. And most of that [00:54:30] affordability problem is in the outer areas of the four and six, the edge of the donut, so to speak, where the workforce population lives.
Craig Ruttan: Great points. Thanks, Mwarigha. For the next question, I want to pick up on something you mentioned in your first remarks, Jay-Ann, about the war for talent. Now as we are seemingly starting to emerge from COVID, this war for talent is accelerating, people are switching [00:55:00] jobs, industries, maybe moving towns. So how big of a role does the cost of housing play in these decisions that going on and how can organizations prepare themselves to respond to this?
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: I think it's significant, so I think if you look at the average salary of somebody who's working in a healthcare role, I think it's 60 to $70,000 a year. So if I can move to ... [00:55:30] there's a bunch of people departing the workforce, we've been reading articles about the fact that many people are going, like, "I'm not going back." Teachers are retiring. Healthcare workers are retiring. The exodus of the boomer generation, and now the ex generation getting up there, exacerbates the problem. But they're going, like, "I've had it. This has been a really difficult time for me as a teacher, figuring out how do I run a live class, a virtual class all at one time."
So you've [00:56:00] got this transition of the workforce happening, and then you've got the new younger folks coming into professions like teaching, and there's going to be opportunities for them in small towns. So what are they going to choose? They're going to choose to go somewhere where they can find housing that's affordable on a salary that's really, you cannot survive in a big city like Toronto making that amount of money, without some sort of affordable housing. So I think it's going to be [00:56:30] a bigger issue with this whole idea of mobility anywhere. People have gone, "Hey, I can go to Halifax. I can go to New Brunswick. I can go to the north." And all those communities are equally working on economic development and how to create a healthy city.
So I think that the idea of living somewhere where you're close to work is really going to be more important to people coming out of [00:57:00] this. I think the days of wanting to travel two hours each way to a job, I think those days are going to come to an end because there's going to be so much demand for people in essential roles. And so opportunities will become available closer to home if you cannot move because you can't afford it, into an urban center. So I think the exodus is happening, I think you've reported that in this report and it's going to take a lot to [00:57:30] attract people to want to stay in a big city across the country.
Craig Ruttan: Yeah. Those are great insights and definitely a big challenge that we'll be facing very soon. We're getting close to the end of our time, so I wanted to do just one last rapid fire, 30 seconds a person. This report that we have out today, reinforces the business case for public and private sector investment in workforce housing. But as we work to keep driving this issue forward [00:58:00] and trying to tackle and find solutions, what's one really important thing we need to be keeping in mind, to try and make sure we see good action on this? Mwarigha, can I come to you first?
Mwarigha: Yes, you can. And I think, as I said, as we evolve into what I call these creative platforms for collaboration, to keep upfront [00:58:30] just the different population groups, but also the subject of equity and the issues of anti-Black racism, the issues of exclusion, and the necessity to continue to challenge ourselves to seek greater affordability for people who have additional disadvantages other than just your generic housing seeker.
Craig Ruttan: That's a great point, thank you. [00:59:00] Patricia.
Patricia Roset-...: Yeah, those are really, really good points. I think I continue to emphasize partnerships and important to create those intentional partnerships, as we heard earlier. And then from where I sit within federal government and within CMHC, where our job is really to advise our government as it comes to good housing policies, for us to [00:59:30] continue to hear from all of you on what else the federal government can do to enable this and to support this. And for our government to hear directly from all of the stakeholders and the researchers out there, because I think continuing to build the evidence around the needs and have the data available to build that economic case for it and the social case, I think will be really important to make the case, but also [01:00:00] to highlight the implications of not taking action.
Craig Ruttan: Absolutely. Thank you. And last word to Jay-Ann.
Jay-Ann Gilfoy: Yes. I think that healthy communities are diverse communities. And so I think on top of the data, we also need to be able to tell the stories of success and the stories that are making communities healthy. And I think affordable housing, having workers who can work and live and play and be part of a community, [01:00:30] we all want that. And so how do we continue to tell those stories and advance the models, the innovative models that you've heard today? CMHC is doing a ton, WoodGreen's doing a ton, there's a bunch of others across the country that are doing a ton, how do we tell those stories and amplify those stories so that more people understand the importance, the value and the essentialness of making sure that we house people across the country, we give opportunities to grow their [01:01:00] own individual wealth and the collective wealth of everyone and around them. So I think it is that intersection between data, storytelling and innovation that I think we need to keep sharing, and I think the Board of Trade is doing a great job of doing that.
Craig Ruttan: Thank you. I wish we could keep going, but on behalf of the board, WoodGreen and TD, thank you all for joining us and for such an engaging conversation. Before people sign off, I'll quickly remind you to download the report to the right of your screen, if you haven't already, and to share it with your networks. The more we can collectively [01:01:30] make noise on housing and the need for action, the more incentive there is for public and private sectors to come together on potential solutions. Until then, thank you again for joining and have a great rest of your day.