Welcome to Altus Insights Podcast Series. This podcast brings together some of our leading brainiacs at Altus Group to discuss, debate, and on occasion complain about the evolving state of Canada's residential and commercial real estate. Join Ray Wong, Marlon Bray, and Avi Zelver for monthly podcasts covering the latest market and construction cost trends across major markets in Canada.
Welcome to Altus Insights podcast series with Ray and Marlin hosted by me. Avi. This podcast will cover monthly market updates and construction cost impacts across major markets in Canada.
Marlon Bray: So today we have a special guest, Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, who represent builders of low rise Midrise, Highrise, how housing. And as usual, we've got Ray Darken in our dorm, and for once it's not in some CD motel somewhere in Calgary or Vancouver. Today we're gonna discuss the government as of Ontario's plan to build 1.5 million homes of the next 10 years to help tackle a massive housing affordability crisis we face today.
Richard, do you wanna do a quick introduction to yourself and the team over at RESCON?
Richard Lyall: Sure. Yeah. I run an organization called RESCON which is a builders council. Our focus is on what actually happens when you build a building and all things related to that. A lot of our work is directed at kind of making the system better cuz of course housing's a very complex industry and there's many parts to it.
And so we have a team of subject matter experts on, on staff that are very good at various elements on this. Anything to do with training to labor relations, health and safety, technical standards, innovation and of course government relations cuz government is a very big part of our world.
Marlon Bray: You were just appointed, weren't you, to, is it another panel or task force looking at building in the one and a half million homes with the government of Ontario.
Richard Lyall: That's true. As an ordering council, I was appointed to the housing supply action plan implementation team, which is a body intended to advise the government or provide advice on.
Some of their thinking. I'm not gonna say we're privy to everything. I would, I wouldn't, I would doubt that. But on what their thinking is and also what we think they need to do possibly next, because of course they've done a lot of things already. And, and quite a lot in fact, you know, and I've been doing this job for 30 years and we've had in the last four years the most.
Changes than I've seen, you know, in that time period. So but of course, as we know, there's a lot of other things happening in the world too, and they all play in, they all, it all interconnects, right? So timing is soft in everything and these things and so yeah.
Marlon Bray: Yeah, Scott, I mean, I suppose that's the topic of today's subject is the today's podcast is the housing crisis we face, not just in Ontario, but across Canada, stable focus on Ontario.
And I think, like you said, over the last few years, we finally, I think, had recognition from all three levels of government. There actually is a crisis. The province is the one that seems to have taken the lead and trying to solve the issue. I we know the feds are just staring at their feet, basically waiting for McKinsey to tell 'em what to do next.
And then the municipalities, I think they're slowly coming around. There's been some real good announcement over the last few weeks and months that shall maybe that ship slowly but surely starting to recognize and turn the ship. So I suppose with the, the first question that I get asked a lot when I'm, I'm doing some of my market stuff, is, We've got 1.5 million homes as a target.
It's an ambitious target, but is that even a enough? If you start looking at the reports C M H C have put together, they tend to indicate that helps, but the number might actually be much bigger.
Richard Lyall: Well, yeah, you're right. But let me first start by saying, I wanna say something. I think it's important that there is a housing crisis sort of in many parts of the developed world.
But we happen to be in a particularly bad situation. And how we got here was a sort of. I'll call it an insidious process and we can come back on that, but now we're trying to sort of fix it. And of course, as you said, the provincial government has really taken concerted action and on this, on many levels.
The feds, yes, there's still kind of. Not engaged yet, and we'll come to that too. But coming to the 1.5 million that is the target. It's a real target. It's based on demographics. It's based on peer reviewed research. And in fact it's slow. Yeah, the real number, the best number we have for the real number is actually 1.78, which is very close to the C M H C number.
Call it 1.8 over 10 years. Now we're into it a little bit already. So, but that is a real number and you know, to get there it essentially means we've gotta pretty much double the amount of housing we're producing right now.
Marlon Bray: Yeah. And Ray, have you, on the research side, you guys seen any change so far towards the 1.5 million?
Ray Wong: uh, there's been a lot of discussions on how we get that point based on the, the, the, the average new construction that we've seen in Ontario and Canada the last number of years, and whether or not it's realistic. So I, I, I think it, it's, it's great that we're having the, the actual discussion cuz that, and, but the next part is, is the action.
So everyone's sort of lining up of what are the possibilities so, Whether or not you like the policies of the, the provincial government or not? I think the key is, is that we're having that discussion, but if you look at the stats and based on the, the market situation that starts are, are down and there, there are some hold or scheduling because of market market demand, as well as with the interest rate.
So it'll be interesting over the next 10 years with that target. How the numbers lined up based on the market or will it be sort of subsidized or pushed in a cer certain direction. But something has to be radically changed to really change the data and as well as the current situation. We are with developers.
Marlon Bray: So that moves on. Like why is the biggest inhibitor Obviously, I, I, I always look at fees and charges, government charges, and everyone's seen my market presentation. I really do come down on both the municipalities and the federal government, and I often ask myself, why does the government make housing so expensive?
And definitely more expensive needs to be. Is that the biggest inhibitor and now is it the, the price or is it also the approval process? The time.
Richard Lyall: So I, I, I will say to you that the biggest single barrier emblem is, I'll call it systemic. And so that includes taxation and things like that. Basically, we started off with really bad planning, right?
Growth planning. We've got a growth plan. Throw out the window. It was a joke. And they ignore demographics to a large extent. And then the other problem is with the rules. So we've calculated, we've got 45 different government bodies and agencies that are involved in the decision making process on a new project compared that the Singapore, that's considered the most advanced jurisdiction of the world on building approval, they have 12.
So we've got four times that, but it's more than just four times because you know, you start doing that what do you, what do you want to call it? The spider web of things. And then as things get more complex, it takes that much longer to do. And then taxes, we tax housing like you tax alcohol or tobacco.
Which when you think about the fact that housing is a need, like food, That's crazy, but that's what we're doing and have done, and it's gotten worse and worse and worse to the point now where taxes, fees, and levies on a new house or a condo or whatever, is about 31% of the cost. So think about that for a minute.
You got a million dollar piece of real estate that you wanna buy. You're a young millennial. 310 grand is taxes, fees, and levies. Then you get into some other stuff beyond that, you know, the inefficiencies of the system and so on and so forth. So, you know, it's, it's it's terrible. Now, the biggest beneficiary of that tax system, ironically, and actually the biggest profiteer in housing is the federal government.
The federal government gets about 39% of, of the loot, right. But you know, in terms of, say for example, public infrastructure investment in Ontario, there only account for about 7.1% of that. So there's a lot of money. Billions of dollars every year going to the federal government in new housing taxes. And it's not coming back and we can't afford that because, you know, you, you hear the stories about like in Toronto and the, and the numbers are so crazy, it just, it's hard to compute $240,000 income to play.
That gets you a big fat mortgage right. Now, when you think about 310,000 being just taxes, fees, and levies. I mean, no wonder we're really starting to lose talent. In fact, we're losing new immigrants that are very talented cuz they've come here. To try to do innovative things and create a new life and, and, and businesses and whatever.
You can't afford to live here. And then don't even get me started on foreign students. So, you know, the systemic problem is the biggest problem. The huge part of that is the way we tax housing, which is. Insane. And it's gone up. By the way, it's been like the, the, the growth rate on taxes. You know, if you look at just development charges 10 or 12 years ago in Toronto, on a two bedroom condo, it was like eight grand.
Today it's $88,000. Why? Well, they've got this cockamamie argument about growth pays for growth, which is, you know, it's baloney because you know, it's the new condo owner or the new renter. That has been paying for that. And the problem is they don't really have a voice in the game, right? They're not some powerful rate pairs association with loads of pitchforks and torches and all that stuff.
And you know, and then they're not, they really don't have much of an effect on the politicians, many of whom pander directly or indirectly to some of these NIMBY groups. You know, and there's, you know, as was said, there's lots of good talk now, a lot of great talk and there's a lot of good plans now to fix things.
I don't say that all the talk is right or all the plans are right. But implementation is the key, and this is what we gotta do. We gotta implement these changes and make it happen. There has to be a cultural change. For example, in some of the bureaucracies, you know, the development industry and builders are not the enemy.
We build everything. We even build the social housing. You know, we're not the, we're not the bad people in this equation, but that's often the way they're treated. And delays are sort of dished out regularly, you know, without regard to what does it mean to the cost of housing, what does it mean to future renters and buyers, and what does it mean to millennials?
I mean, like the mental health consequences of some of this stuff are crazy young people today. They'll never own a home. Right? And then, You know, one of the things I wanna do is compare that 31% in taxes. To what their parents paid, and I guarantee you I'm can have that number soon. So stay tuned, we can have another discussion about this.
It's gonna be a huge number. And you know what you know, there's no excuse for it.
Marlon Bray: None. Well, Ray's an old guy. He can probably tell you the number off the top of his head, but I, he probably could. Sorry, Ray, just to that, maybe Ray you can pop in the other side of the market. It's not just that, it's the you, you're today visiting with a developer that specializes in purpose-built rental, that side of the market.
Has been hammered as well. I know Ray's been looking at that sort of stuff recently, but rents have gone crazy because of the shortage of policies. So one side, the other balance is, and rental gets hammered with those same fees and charges, and we know Bill 23 did some to help, but if you're losing 50 million and someone gives you 4 million, realistically thanks, but.
It doesn't really cover the bases. So, Ray, do you wanna talk about some of the stuff you've been looking at Purpose of rent on trying to make stuff work?
Ray Wong: Well, the, the, the, the challenge with this, especially with the market with with, with rent control, is it, Purpose built rental in Ontario is starting to grow, and especially from an institutional pension fund, a return standpoint, it makes sense, especially with the, with the type of returns and and the growth in that area.
About, Richard, your comment earlier about the, the, the immigration is, Yeah, mailing moves to either Ontario and bc. So the challenge with this I think based on the whole, whole affordability, especially last couple of years, it's bad enough for, for people here to be able to rent, understand the process, and as well as look at the, the various listings.
So we're starting to lose some of that talent to Alberta to a certain extent especially on the affordability as well as Atlanta, Canada. So from the rental standpoint that you have to purpose build rental, but the other stock that you're starting to hit a little bit based on the, the foreign buyer restrictions is the, the condo market, which is also sort of a outlet for, for rentals, right?
So, so, Some of the policies are well-intended, but the challenge we're dealing with is some of the changes they're making to the policy is actually inhibiting some of the, the, the aspects of the, the rental stock. But purposeful rental is evolving, changing, but that's getting a little bit more expensive.
Again, Richard, what you said earlier, based on the demographics, And where that demand's coming from. So there has to be a balance there that we don't have yet just because of the, of the very low, uh, uh, vacancy rate on the multifamily side.
Marlon Bray: Yeah, and I think we segue good here is we know we have a mayoral race in Toronto.
Toronto's gonna bear the biggest weight for accommodating those houses and have the highest targets. We did see our friend Matt Lowe, come out with his new cunning plan to cut developers out of housing by building 15,000 homes for 300 million. Basically the average cost of a kitchen reno not sure how much you think developers are making on projects, but apparently it, it's a lot.
So is there anything you guys are looking for or, or, or fear in the upcoming election that could actually set some of this good work backwards in that it tends be once Toronto jumps, some of the other municipalities tend to follow suit and we seem to be making headway, but now we could have a new mayor to deal with.
Richard Lyall: Well, you got that Ramey Toronto does have a housing action plan, which is good. Although yesterday had some people went to a meeting with the new development and growth division and apparently I've heard the name is being changed, the development and review division now or something like that. Which goes, you got, oh my God, here we go.
But you know, the problem is, is that this is, An incredibly complex problem with many factors and variables involved. And just, just the systemic issues alone, like just, you know, zoning and site plan approvals, processes. The technocracy related to that is, is, is very complex. And so, you know, we, it, this is no time for.
Really for amateur hour, right? And so yes, politicians will be politicians. Matt Lowes, you know, he came up with the idea. It's really kind of an extension of Create TO an extra department or something like that. But it's, you know, it's another one of these things, 15,000 units over how many years are the numbers even real?
You know, where's the breakdown of the plan and 15,000 units. It's not really gonna get us very far. It, you know, it's good if it can be done, but they, they cook up these ideas sort of out of their back pocket, you know well let's do this. And, and it's, it's not a solution. It, it's just politics. So you have, we have to sort of separate the two things and then, you know, people have to remember, and they forget this 90% of housing is private sector.
And at its peak governments. Share of housing production, which is I think sometime about 30 odd years ago. I'm gonna check that was 14%. So the, you know, the first thing they have to do is say, how do we get the market working? Right, because it's not working properly. I mean, it works very effectively. You know, like people say, well, you got 238 cranes in the sky four times more than the other city.
And I say, yeah, we're really good at that. But that's also a stark example of the dysfunctionality of our market, cuz forget about mid-rise housing, forget about missing middle housing, et cetera. I mean, there's things that we're just not doing at all. Right. Yeah. We're, we're really good over here. And then it gets attacked and criticized and it gets bunched up into certain areas and, you know, all that stuff.
So we, you know, I think one of the things that. And data don't get me started on data and the, the, the information that they're working off of cuz they don't really know where things are going yet and there's some efforts being made on that score to, to improve the information so we can make better decisions.
But there is no real breakdown of what are the different things we need. I mean, raise absolutely right. Purpose-built rental housing has been, it's, it's improved in recent years. For good reasons, but it's nowhere near where it should be. I mean, in the US in the last few years, they've had a building boom in purpose-built rental housing like huge.
It should have happened here. Our economies are so similar, but it's not happening here because our system is dysfunctional. It's broken.
Marlon Bray: No. And I, on your point of social housing, the 15,000 makes no difference. Almost. The, the, the backlog. T C H C right now, I believe for social housing alone, not just affordable, is 90 to 95,000.
Average wait time to get a free bedroom unit is 15 years the same for a one bedroom, a two bedroom is slightly shorter at 13 years, which not sure. That's awfully helpful. It was funny, I was having a conversation with my dad on the weekend explaining to him he's in the uk. He's like, how the hell does anybody live there?
So, I mean, Ray yeah. Ray, you got any thoughts on the, in specifically how this can all go even worse than it is right now with the mayoral race?
Ray Wong: Well, yeah, it, with Richard's comment on the us Yeah. The, the, the whole thing is that it is actually reverse trends there, that based on that overbuilding, their rents are actually going down.
So hitting into a little bit more better direction than, than ours. But again, I, I like the whole thing with especially the timing of this mayor's race of the discussion. And hopefully with the discussion there's different ideas to address and it also highlights some of the challenges. Because we're in the Vancouver last week with the real estate forum there, and basically you came out of that conference with, if you're looking to build a multipurpose built residential, you're looking at from start to finish between seven to 10 years.
Right. And so I, I, I think this race is, is good cuz it's gonna highlight some of the challenges and be, bring things to the forefront. But again, I agree with Richard's comment. It's great that we're talking about this, but the key is the execution going forward. So I'm, I'm, I'm [00:20:00] opt optimistic that with these discussions that we will see change, but at the same time, I, I, I'm, I, I, I'm just not that positive going forward.
If, if some of these things why I should be implemented.
Marlon Bray: Yeah, I love the diagram. Someone posted on LinkedIn and they had like, this is the population of Toronto in 2021. It's like shrinking everywhere. Other than these big dark lines that follow like the certain nodes where there's highrise, you kinda go.
There's less and less people in this space. And I, I think someone posted today about how much that high rise now takes up, like it's got like 45% of all people and 8% of the land. And that's basically the way it's moved over the years. And you just kinda go, it's ridiculous. So one thing I wanna do is, before we close stuff off, is Rich is a huge proponent of technology.
I tend to be negative a little bit on technology. Richard likes the technology of the data. We've had discussions on digital twins a little bit. Raise the data guy. So how do you think that that's just gonna change the way we think and we actually do in the future? Because it's gonna make a change no matter what we say.
So Richard, if you wanna throw your hat in first on this side of things.
Richard Lyall: Well, you know, you are right. I am a big fan and, and I think one of the reasons for that is cuz other jurisdictions are already doing a lot of this stuff to very good effect. So it's not like we're creating something new or you know, weird and wonderful or taking a risk with this stuff.
It's about updating our processes, modernizing our systems having that interoperability between disconnected departments. So you know, you can have a modern streamlined approvals process where you have a one window. It is effective. There is transparency and accountability where you can impose performance standards and say, Hey, look, if you haven't responded in 30 days and there's no reason why you can't, then we're just gonna move on without you.
We don't care what you think about, you know, whatever department or division or organization it might be. Cuz we've gotta get this stuff done. I mean, I, I, you know, and I could tell you stories about that. So things like digital twinning, BIM, you know, G I S uh, A R VR AI, you know, all these, all the technology that's that, that we need to incorporate is there, now I'm not saying it's not easy.
And it's not gonna solve our immediate problems, cuz this stuff is gonna take time to implement. But we, we have to move in that direction. And for for God's sakes, we should be a leader on this. I mean, right now, according to the O E C D, we ranked 34th out of 35 countries. The last country is Slovenia and I think the only thing I know about Slovenia is that's where Donald Trump's wife came from.
That's it. Other than that, really care. You know.
Marlon Bray: And obviously we're Altus this big data company, Ray, and I know you, I find the quality of data use in Canada isn't quite as good as the US based on what we've seen with Reonomy and those sort of companies we've acquired and the stuff they just, they just show you such a higher level of detail for decision making that I don't know if the Canadian government even has that available to them.
Ray Wong: It's expensive, right? So because it's also a bigger population and it's, you can spread the, the, the, the cost. So you're obviously right, the data sets that they're dealing with and look at the demographics and changes. I think data is always good and that it creates better transparency and as well as it takes account with possible changes and.
Especially with the type of immigration that we're, we're getting and the growth in certain, you know, characteristics based on the millennials. So I think we're always gonna be behind on, on, on that area. And I'm not sure what that solution is to ma to make the information more available to other people that people can, that other people can actually.
Use the information in a more innovative way. So I think that's always gonna be the challenge with it, but I think that's the push that the, the leaders in the sector will have in that being able to exchange and have these type of discussions, exchange ideas. But I, I think data is key, but I think there's some restrictions attached to it.
And I think data and innovation is the key going forward to get, help us through
Marlon Bray: some of these solutions. Yeah, I just find, I think a lot of decisions, people are just taking a flyer at it. It's not necessarily based on rational information. And myself and Richard were at the the RESCON A G M, and we were seeing the W, the power of what a digital twin done at a city level, a national level.
And then putting all of that information together, you could actually say with some degree of certainty what may or may not happen once you start building or you don't build and. You kinda look at places to grow and where we are today, and you kinda go, how the hell did they not see this happening? When they went in that direction?
Richard Lyall: And, and absolutely. And you know, one other thing I can throw this in that I'd like to work on, and we do have the capabilities. We need to be running simulations. We need to measure what are the consequences of failure. We're not doing that. So in terms of running simulations, what, what if you take a, a block of changes.
And introduce them. What's the effect gonna be? If you don't do that? What's gonna happen, and we know what's gonna happen if we don't deal with some of this stuff to a certain extent, but it's, it's not accurate. And then we need to break it down to like, how, what, what should be the sheriff purpose-built rental you know, the different housing formats and occupancies and so on, and social housing.
And what are those targets that we need to hit within different communities? We gotta break this thing down. You know the province has been remarkable in terms of the scope and the breadth of the changes they've introduced so far. But the, the thing that some people are missing is that this problem is so big and it's so bad and it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
And unfortunately, I think in a few areas we're gonna have to hit some serious walls before some people really wake up. Cuz we do have a lot of people now. It's good. A lot of people are actually doing things, a lot of people are still talking, but then behind the scenes they're not, they're not walking the talk.
And in fact, the, the barriers are still there. They're the, the, the approvals process is not getting improved. In fact, it's even getting worse because, you know, they have the argument, well we don't have the people, you know, like, well then maybe you need to look at what exactly those people are actually doing for a living.
Cuz I guarantee you a lot of them aren't doing much. Or not enough. There's an issue there. And then some of the stuff that they're doing, we don't need it cuz someone else is already doing it. And we have professionals in our company, you know, we've got architects, engineers, they're the ones that really go through this serious training on, on, you know, technical issues and stuff like that.
Like we're just, we've got too much mission creep. Too many fingers in the pie. It's gummed up the process. We're not building the housing we need to build. And a lot of people, the worst thing of all is people and kids are really suffering as a result of this. Cuz this does have huge implications for healthcare and education.
Let's not forget that. And you know, what we're starting to see and you know, the, the surprise thing from Waterloo University that a 94 in math out of high school might be an 80. You know, I guarantee you some of these issues are factored into that too as well. So, yeah. You know, we, we, with this, this is, you know, it is a crisis and people, you know, they need to look at the definition.
That means urgent action needed now, not tomorrow. Right? So...
Marlon Bray: Well, and I think at some point, maybe not for this podcast or future on a discussion on the downstream impact, once we build the houses, we need infrastructure. And I know you're involved heavily in that side and they underspend on infrastructure.
So maybe, maybe we'll keep that one back for a future topic and how much we've underspend actually just on infrastructure for a Future podcast that does have a massive impact and also rolls into one of Ray's favorite subjects around offices, industrial and how all of the real estate ties together.
So we're getting close to the end. So final question. And you can answer it any way you like. Can we build 1.5 million homes in 10 years?
Richard Lyall: I'll let Ray answer that. Yeah, we can. We can. I won't. I'm not gonna put you on the spot. I, you know what? We can do it, but we've gotta play to perfection. Like we really need to turn on all the taps and we're not there yet.
And, and, and one of the big ways that has to happen, and it's almost like on a, a Marshall Plan type scale, which is offsite construction, modular housing, panelized housing, and we gotta get immigration right. You know, we gotta get. Our, our, I'm not gonna say training, apprenticeship, you know, I like, but, but young people find, you know, really clear up those pathways.
We need the investment cuz you know, we got a big challenge coming now. It's gonna be, you know, a little bit of a liquidity crunch coming. Right. But the investment needs to flow and the investment will flow. And I know Ray knows this is purpose bill rental housing. If you can, if you can pull together the proformas that you know, that look at, yeah, you'll get the, you, you can get the money.
And money is looking for alpha, right? Pension funds, things like that. It, there's a, there's great potential here. And then systemic. The systemic fix. We gotta cut the Gordian knot, right? And we've got quite a few Gordian knots. So if we can do all of those things, you know, to the best of our abilities, yeah, we can build 1.5 million homes.
Now the question is, can we do that?
Marlon Bray: I think we should put them all in Milton. That's my new summary solution for the problem. It used to be Send everybody to Calgary. I've now decided Milton's a better location and we just build one and a half million homes in a, in a town that actually likes building.
Richard Lyall: I gotta show you something.
Don't take this the wrong way.
Marlon Bray: Oh, so your proponent, is everyone gonna jump? They're Texas
Richard Lyall: El Here I come.
Marlon Bray: Ray, did you have anything else to add cuz that might be the perfect ending.
Ray Wong: No, absolutely not. Richard. I, I totally agree with you. I just need to be able to mobilize. Perfect, perfect. Summary.
Marlon Bray: So thanks Richard today for taking time.
It's always a pleasure to talk with you on this stuff and again, hopefully we can get you back and maybe we can hit the next big one, which is that infrastructure underspend the deficit as well. Cause I think that's a good topic.
Richard Lyall: Got a big report coming out next week on it, so...
Marlon Bray: Oh, well maybe we'll get you, once it's come out we can get you back and we can tie that in.
You got it. Okay. Excellent. Well thanks Richard. Thanks Ray. Okay guys. Thank you. Okay, cheer.