The Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) recently coined the term #Homebeliever, and began a campaign to help boost housing supply across the province. Increasing housing supply makes sense for several reasons: Supply keeps prices from skyrocketing out of control; new supply helps create jobs in the construction and related industries; and there are spin-off benefits when people feel secure and invested in their communities.
However, several people have raised their displeasure with the campaign as it doesn’t promote the value of renting and boosting rental housing supply. They contend it only worsens the stigma against renters. The OHBA leadership group has worked hard to promote rental housing. They want to create a financial and planning environment that incentivizes rental apartment developers to build. Unfortunately, expanded rent controls, restrictive zoning and high construction financing requirements have made rental development too risky or expensive for many Ontario builders.
The OHBA can’t solve all these rental-related issues, but the #Homebeliever campaign resonates with a lot of people. At a recent housing industry event, Tom Clark, best known for his previous role as chief political correspondent on Global News, praised the campaign as aspirational, and people vote based on aspirations of a better life. He pointed out that negative attack ads and fear-based campaigns can work in flipping people’s votes, but Canadians react more favourably to politicians who speak to our desires and our goals. So far, OHBA has been very successful in getting politicians to sign the #Homebeliever pledge, and you might consider doing so as well.
If renting better fits your lifestyle, great, rent – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, if you don’t want to pay an exorbitant monthly rental rate, it serves your interest to see more housing built, so everyone has more choice when they’re looking to buy or rent. Don’t fall for the “new housing prices people out” argument.
New development doesn’t drive up existing rents in communities as some have claimed. Let’s look at average rental rates in 2010 and 2017 for apartments built between 1960 and 1979 in several GTA communities using CMHC data, and compare that to the number of new housing units completed in those areas over that eight-year stretch. In central Toronto, there were more than 42,000 new units added and rents went up 35 per cent; in Etobicoke North, there were just 579 new completions and rents increased 33 per cent.
Whether you are a #Homebeliever or not, promoting the creation of new ownership and rental housing produces more homes, more households and more jobs, and that is a movement worth getting behind.