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OHBA ‘Cut the ****’ campaign urges housing crisis to be central issue in Ontario election

Angela Gismondi
OHBA ‘Cut the ****’ campaign urges housing crisis to be central issue in Ontario election

When it comes to the housing crisis in Ontario, the time for finger pointing is gone, the time for action is now and it’s not going to solve itself overnight, says Bob Schickedanz, president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

The OHBA recently launched the Cut the **** campaign and with kick off of the 2022 provincial election last week, the association is encouraging the topic be front and centre on the campaign trail.

“It’s bold and edgy perhaps, but that’s what we need today. We need these bold steps to address the problem because tinkering around the edges will not solve the problem,” Schickedanz told the Daily Commercial News.

“It’s time to cut the red tape, it’s time to cut the excuses, it’s time to cut the delays, the costs, the bureaucracy. In essence, it’s time to cut the blank. Those four stars you can fill in whatever you want and build more homes. That’s how people feel.”

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness, ask the bold questions during this election period and have a unified voice with those families and individuals desperately looking for a place to call home, he added.

“Ultimately the goal is that it will translate into action,” Shickedanz said. “How do we then do something about it, what steps need to be taken so we can find Ontarians a place to live?”

Since the election campaign launched Ontario’s New Democrats, the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are all promising to build 1.5 million homes, as housing affordability becomes one of the main election issues in the province.

“The mere fact that now the major parties are acknowledging this actually supports our initiative and what we’re trying to do,” said Shickedanz.

The campaign is targeted to anybody and everybody looking for a home.

“We’re trying to bring this to the forefront not to our members, but it’s focused to the people of Ontario, their frustration and the inability to find a home in communities they want to live in.

“They don’t want to hear the excuses. They don’t want to hear rhetoric. They want to hear meaningful solutions to the problem.”

The campaign commitments are a good start but everyone needs to work collaboratively to make meaningful change, he added.

“That’s just to start the conversation, but we can’t just talk,” he said. “Once we open the door and talk about it then we talk about the real issues, the complex issues. How quickly can we get approvals through the pipeline, approval processes, zoning, site plans, infrastructure? Is it available? And then finally, do we have the tradespeople to build the homes we need?”

Over the coming decade, the province needs at least one million new homes to be built just to keep up with population growth, Schickedanz explained.

“That’s a significant amount of homes considering over the last 10 years we’ve been building probably around 650,000 homes, so there is a significant shortfall,” he noted.

The issue, said Schickedanz, is not enough homes are being built to keep up with demand and the solution is to build more homes at a rate that can meet and even exceed the demand. However, there are barriers to building more housing in the province including red tape, delays and NIMBYism.

Schickedanz recently embarked on a cross-province road trip to discuss housing issues in local communities.

“The one common thing is, no matter where I’ve landed, everyone says ‘there are no homes here for people to live in.’ No matter where it is in the province it’s exactly the same story. It’s not just Toronto-centric or Hamilton-centric, the large urban areas. It’s really spread all over the place.”

Builders are just as frustrated with the situation.

“They are ready to build the homes we need but now the decision-makers, the policy-makers, they have to not only listen…now is the time to come up with meaningful solutions to address this problem,” said Schickedanz.

The labour shortage is also an issue.

“Once we get the approvals in place and the infrastructure there, the broader question becomes who is going to build these homes?” he said. “We’re in a situation in a very tight labour market.” As part of the campaign a website has been launched www.ontariobuildmorehomes.ca.

“We encourage people to go to the website, see our message and sign the pledge and sign the call to action letter which would automatically be distributed to local candidates in your riding,” Schickedanz explained. “What we are asking is all candidates, no matter which party, if you’re elected what measures are you going to take and what measures is your party going to take to address the housing crisis?”

The website encourages Ontarians to vote. “We can’t tax our way to housing abundance. We need to build with our ballot,” it states.

All levels of government and all parties have a responsibility and a role to play, he said.

“Whether federally, provincially or locally, like never before we have to sit down, work on this problem and find a solution. Otherwise it’s not going to get better.”

—With files from The Canadian Press

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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