Edward Skira is cofounder of urbantoronto.ca – a website that covers various urban development topics within the city of Toronto. UrbanToronto.ca features forums dedicated to development in Toronto, where enthusiasts discuss various projects, offer opinions, and share pictures of developments in progress. New development information and illustrations are often shared in the forums before their official release. Edward Skira talks about the housing market and other building issues in Canada in this Interview with NAXNAX Netzwerk Architekturexport.
NAX: Mr. Skira, maybe you have already heard about the problem of the lack of housing in Germany, especially in urban areas. The situation is getting more and more acute: The Federal Government is far behind its goal of providing around 375,000 new apartments each year. As a result, rents are rising more and more, affordable housing construction is reducing. What does the apartment and housing situation look like in major Canadian cities such as Toronto? If so, what is the government doing about it?
Edward Skira: Toronto is currently booming and population is growing rapidly – approximately adding 125,000 people a year to Toronto proper and suburbs. Construction is following suit but mainly condos are being build. Rental apartments are a very small part of this as rent controls for many years discouraged the building of rentals. As in many big cities building has a hard time keeping up with demand as a result prices went up a lot over the last decade. Due to government intervention i.e. harder to get mortgages and a discouragement of foreign purchases prices have stabilized in the last few years but even with that affordability is a major issue. Renewed government funding for housing is being contemplated but budgets are not sufficient to deal with all the demand. Add to this the building boom is creating a shortage of skilled trades and is pushing costs for materials up making it harder to build affordable housing. And then there’s the existing stock of government housing that’s aging and needs capital for upkeep. A big problem here.
NAX: Which cities in Canada are particularly interesting for project developers and why? Which type of real estate projects (mix-used, housing, commercial) are currently on the rise?
Edward Skira: The biggest markets with the most demand for development are Toronto and Vancouver. Vancouver has many of the same issues with development as Toronto as mentioned in the previous question. For this reason Vancouver development is mainly concentrated on residential with some commercial. Toronto on the other hand is getting development across the board: a lot of residential but also a lot of commercial, industrial and institutional.
NAX: Is the initiative “Green Construction through Wood” already noticeable in current projects i.e. is more wood being used in modern buildings?
Edward Skira: Wood construction is becoming something of an interest to developers due to changes to building codes. For many years wood construction was essentially relegated to lowrise. Only in the last few years that the building codes were changed to allow wood on buildings up to six storeys. There is a push to go higher. I suspect we’ll definitely see more of this.
NAX: In the context of the “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)” Canada opens its tenders to European firms, which can now access public call for tenders via an internet platform (https://buyandsell.gc.ca). Is this market opening already noticeable as more European architects and construction companies operate on the Canadian market?
Mr. Skira, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.