Ontario Builders Can’t Keep Up with County’s Rising Demands

by Editor

According to an Ontario housing assessment released on Monday, Windsor and Essex County would require an extra 30,400 houses by 2031 in order to eliminate the current housing deficit and satisfy future demand.

The region has a current shortage of 9,900 homes and will require the building of an additional 20,400 dwellings, according to a report by the national research think tank, Smart Prosperity Institute.

A senior director at the Smart Prosperity Institute and an economist, Mike Moffatt, commented, “These numbers could turn out to be actually conservative for the area with (the battery plant, bridge, new hospital, and automotive) investments being made there.”

“The numbers (of homes required) could absolutely be larger.”

To meet it, every builder would need to increase or quadruple production.

The local housing supply would grow by 18.4% if 30,400 more dwellings were added to the 165,000 existing ones.

According to Statistics Canada, an average of 1,350 new homes were built annually in the region from 2016 to 2021.

Brent Klundert, vice president of the Windsor-Essex Home Builders Association, referred to the difficulty as “mind-boggling.”

Those figures, according to Klundert, are astounding.

“Every builder would have to triple or quadruple construction to meet that. That’s just not possible at the current stage.”

Like much of Southwestern Ontario, Moffatt said that Essex County’s housing shortfall is being caused by strong population growth that is outpacing supply.

The main causes of such population growth are immigration, migration from the Greater Toronto Area, and growth in college and university enrollment.

Moffatt predicted that in the next ten years, there will be a high demand for more housing anywhere there are universities or colleges.

“The hope is some of these students will stay in the area and 18 to 25-year-olds are what will make up the housing market over the next 10 years.”

In recent years, enrollment at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor has grown significantly, especially in terms of attracting foreign students. Currently, they have more than 30,000 students enrolled together.

Moffatt stated that the area has experienced a large influx of natives from the west since 2015, when the oil business started to decline. After the financial crisis of 2008, the industrial sector also stayed the same for many years. This, along with a weak housing market, led to the current shortage.

The GTA’s population’ constant expansion into Ontario in pursuit of more affordable homes has raised demand for housing as well.

Moffatt anticipates a local continuation of this tendency.

There will be some work that can be done from home, but Moffatt thinks that some people from the GTA may move here because of the battery facility and what comes from it.

If you work in an automobile facility in the GTA, it makes sense to consider moving to Windsor, where housing is still significantly less expensive.

Moffatt and Klundert acknowledge that they are more upbeat about solving the issue now than they were a few years ago.

“The three levels of government have finally focused on it being a supply problem not a demand problem,” Klundert said.

Klundert emphasized that the remedies would need considerable adjustments in the areas of labor, productivity, and regulatory procedures. He claimed that the most difficult obstacle to overcome is streamlining the regulatory procedure.

Standardizing the regulatory procedure was the main demand made by regional house builders during a recent meeting with Ontario’s housing minister, Steve Clark, according to Klundert. “Make it the same across all municipalities.”

Klundert said that the procedure takes much too long, particularly when rezoning land for residential use.

According to Klundert, the government must address the lack of trained labor. He applauds the province’s desire that the federal government exercise more control over the importation of qualified tradespeople from other countries to fill the gap.

“Pre-COVID it took us 110 to 120 days to build a house,” Klundert said. “Now with labour and supply shortages, it’s taking upwards of 180 days. That’s reduced the year to two build cycles from three cycles.”

Moffatt emphasized that the housing sector must also significantly boost productivity.

Prefabrication, off-site building, and the use of additional technologies to speed up construction will hence become increasingly widespread.

We cannot expect to generate twice as many homes using the same method that is contributing to the issue, Moffatt added.

“The feds have supercluster programs to advance other sectors, but I’ve seen nothing on increasing productivity in the housing sector. I think that’s a mistake.”

You may also like