David Wilkes took over as president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association on Jan. 3, succeeding Bryan Tuckey, who retired at the end of 2017 after five years.
Most recently senior vice-president of government relations and grocery at the Retail Council of Canada, Wilkes is well aware of the challenges – and opportunities – that face the home building industry.
NextHome wasted no time in sitting down with Wilkes, in his third week on the job, for further insights.
NextHome: How are you settling in at BILD?
David Wilkes: It’s going very well. I’m certainly struck by the importance of the work that our members do and the economic activity they’re responsible for – approximately 175,000 jobs, $10 billion in annual wages and $30 billion in investment value. You recognize how much of a driver of the economy the development industry is. There’s an economic responsibility that I feel a great degree of commitment to, to protect.
I’m also struck by the societal importance of the work we do. I can think of very few things that an industry is responsible for that are more important than the places that people call home.
I am quite honoured to do this work, and I feel a great passion to make sure that BILD continues to advance not only the interests of our industry, but also the interests of those who are purchasing homes that our members build.
NH: What was your impression of the home building industry in the GTA prior to joining BILD?
DW: I did a lot of research beforehand. I was struck by the similarities between any industry that’s at the end of a supply chain – whether it’s a home builder or condo development, or someone who is renovating a home… always has that same responsibility – you have direct contact with the consumer, there’s a lot of regulatory obligations that go into the work we do, and associated costs. So I was interested, if you will, in the similarities between retail work and the building industry, and I’ve always been impressed by the work this industry does.
NH: Bryan Tuckey just retired after five years. Fast-forward five years, and if you were to look back over those five years, what would success look like? What would be the key signposts at which you could say, yes, these past five years have been successful because..?
DW: There’s a tremendous story to be told about this industry that’s not being told in the proper way. We’ve talked about the economic and societal impacts, but there’s a lot of innovation that’s going on – reducing the footprint through increasing sustainability efforts, using different types of models to intensify land use, as we see the growth that we’re anticipating here in the region. So, really making sure that the reputation of this industry is told in a way that is thorough and complete, and enhances that reputation… that’s one goal I hope to achieve over my time.
The second would be: There is a need to make sure the purchasers of the products our members sell understand the impact various government regulations have on our industry. This will create a platform to ensure we partner with government in a way that builds the region we all want… expanding the good work we’ve done on government relations into that more holistic approach.
We need to make sure we have the right policy and regulations to provide the platform for growth, and build homes that are affordable for all across the region.
Statistics Canada estimates that by 2040, we’re looking at 9.7 million people living in the Greater Toronto region. That’s like the entire population of Montreal and Vancouver moving into Toronto.
This region is going to be a hub of economic activity, and we’ve got to make sure we get it right.
NH: What’s the number one challenge you see facing the home building industry?
DW: Affordability. No question. It’s as simple as that.
NH: And the top opportunity?
DW: Addressing that affordability. It’s the same thing. The challenge has to become the opportunity.