Housing recovery is worth nurturing
Stephen Dupuis – Yourhome.ca
Just before the holidays, I had an opportunity to do a television interview on a building site in Markham. In the brief time I spent walking about the site with the reporter, the word “jobs” kept coming up over and over.
Never mind the gorgeous elevations of the finished homes – it was the homes under construction that were catching our eyes that day. Everywhere we looked, there was so much activity that the camera-woman kept exclaiming about the great footage she was getting in support of the story.
The topic of the interview happened to be Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s musings about slowing down the real estate market by increasing the minimum down payment and or reducing the maximum mortgage amortization period. In fairness, Flaherty didn’t say he was going to slow down the market. What he said was “there would have to be clear evidence of an asset bubble in residential real estate in Canada, which there is not right now, for the government to take steps.”
Still, the fact that the finance minister weighed in on the subject was cause for concern to many of us in the industry. After all, it was barely a year ago that builders were fearing a prolonged real estate bust. Although the bust was short-lived, the relative recovery is far from firmly established and builders are cautiously optimistic at best.
In the context of a very tentative recovery and in the midst of all the federal stimulus money being invested in the name of jobs, one would think that any sector that is creating jobs – like the new homebuilding and renovation sector is – would be encouraged, not put on notice.
Getting back to that construction site, the sights and sounds of the workers was a joy to see and hear. The framing carpenters were going full tilt with their saws and power nailers. A forklift roared by with a load of lumber. We leaned on a pile of roof trusses, which were manufactured off site. Everywhere there were skids of brick made by workers at a Hanson plant in the Greater Toronto Area. A dump truck backed up with a load of crushed stone for the driveways. Jobs, jobs and more jobs.
Considering that we were on site in the early stages of construction, there are so many workers yet to come to those homes to do the finishing work. Roofing, bricklaying, drywall, flooring and painting – all done by skilled workers who rely on a healthy housing industry for their livelihoods.
And I haven’t even mentioned the workers employed off site making the windows, doors, toilets, sinks, cabinets, countertops and all the other products that go into a newly built home.
So when the reporter asked me point blank what I thought about any move to artificially slow down the housing market, my honest answer was that the housing recovery was something to be nurtured, not shot down just as it was getting going. I summed it up by saying that in my view, jobs can never be a bad thing. I’m sure all the workers on and off that housing site would agree.
Thanks to Patrick O’Hanlon of Kylemore Homes for granting us access to the West Village site in Markham. Also, congratulations to O’Hanlon and all the builders for all the risks they take to create jobs for so many men and women while fulfilling the home ownership dreams of new homebuyers in the GTA.
Stephen Dupuis is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association. The views expressed are those of the president.
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