‘We all collectively care’: Developers, City of Barrie getting creative on affordable-housing options

Chris SimonBarrie AdvanceWednesday, May 26, 2021

GIMME SHELTER – Few things are more fundamental in life than having a place to lay your head. That is why, every week in May, we will be taking readers through a close examination of various aspects of housing. This series will look at home prices, first-time buyers, renters, developers and more. Read more here.

If the affordable housing crisis was easy to solve, it would’ve been done by now.

But many developers and City of Barrie officials are working hard to find solutions, Pratt Homes owner Karen Hansen said. The Barrie-area builder got creative, in recent years, in order to give residents an opportunity to buy a new home.

Hansen sat on a built-form task force about five years ago, where industry professionals and municipal staff explored the affordability issue. The general consensus was that a broader variety of housing types, like three-storey walk-ups and stacked or back-to-back townhouses, could keep purchase prices reasonable.

“We have since brought quite a few of those products to market,” she said. “We feel everybody should have an opportunity to own a home, invest in the future and lay roots. This has to be a collaboration between the building industry and the city. We all collectively care very much about this issue.”

Land prices have risen substantially in recent years due to new requirements for stormwater management and other infrastructure intended to protect the environment. There’s little wiggle room on the city’s development charges, too, which pay for critical growth-related costs like new roads, water and sewer pipes, and fire and police stations necessary to service the area, Hansen said.

“The one way we can help with affordable housing, when we can’t do anything about the cost of the land (and DCs) which are fairly fixed, is the build form — the construction cost,” she said. “That’s where we can work directly with the city to get more creative.”

What else could the municipality do to incentivize developers to build more affordable-housing units? Instead of resting on their laurels after the city recently achieved its 10-year, 840-unit affordable housing target — set in 2015 — staff conceded this was nowhere near enough to bring home ownership within reach to many residents.

So they’ve committed to writing a ‘report card’ on the issue in the months to come, which will help set future goals and objectives.

“Affordable housing is not achieved by any one method or by any one body,” said city director of development Michelle Banfield. “We know there is more work to be done.”

Building still booming in Innisfil

‘We’re expecting an increase this year’ May 14, 2021 1:30 PM By: Innisfil Today Staff


Housing construction in Innisfil has continued through the pandemic. Miriam King/Freelance

In all of 2020, the Town of Innisfil issued a total of 721 building permits – including permits for 456 residential units, and the construction of 2232 sq. m. of Industrial/Commercial/Institutional (ICI) space.

In just the first quarter of 2021, the town had issued 193 building permits – including 92 residential units, and 8,341 sq. m. of  ICI space.

“We’re pretty much on track with last year,” said Director of Growth Leo Deloyde, “but we’re expecting an increase this year.”

Council received the report, but added a request: that, in future, the Building permit reports provide more comparative data.

Mayor Lynn Dollin suggested the next report could provide the previous year’s quarterly information, in addition to the year-end totals, “so you could kind of compare apples to apples.”

Despite the pandemic, Innisfil has continued to experience a building boom and rapid growth. Between 2011 and 2019, the average number of building permits issued in the municipality for new homes was 321.7.

Both 2020 and 2021 will greatly exceed that number.

New Skilled Trades Ontario praised by stakeholders

New Skilled Trades Ontario praised by stakeholders

Ontario’s construction stakeholders generally expressed universal support for the bold strokes of the Ontario government’s new direction on the skilled trades, with enthusiasm for the new Crown agency to be known as Skilled Trades Ontario (STO) tempered only by uncertainty as to what comes next.

Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) Monte McNaughton unveiled plans for STO to replace the embattled Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) on May 6. The new system, provided for in the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, realigns responsibilities for the training, certification and enforcement of the skilled trades system in the province.

“We welcome a new agency that takes a fresh approach and genuine interest in advancing Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system,” said Stephen Hamilton, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance.

“By establishing Skilled Trades Ontario, the province is helping connect employers with the tradespersons and apprentices they need, particularly as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic,” commented Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

McNaughton said he was implementing the first phase of the recommendations of the Skilled Trades Panel, established last September with Michael Sherrard as chair. The panel is currently consulting on the second phase of its mandate, to focus on classification and training.

System oversight by MLTSD

Under the new system, STO would become the province’s training authority to lead the promotion, research and development of apprenticeship training and curriculum standards. It will consolidate services including apprentice registration, issuance of certificates and renewals.

The MLTSD will provide system oversight, be responsible for regulatory decisions and financial supports, and take on responsibility for trade prescription and classification, compliance and enforcement.

“Mike Sherrard did a fantastic job of listening to everybody’s concerns and coming up with a set of recommendations,” said government relations associate for the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) Erich Schmidt.

“We’re very excited for the second phase of consultations to engage once again with our employer partners and build upon this collaboration.”

“It’s about time the focus shifted, with the emphasis on doing away with the bureaucratic maze and helping more people succeed in skilled trades careers,” said Karen Renkema, vice-president, Ontario, of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “We’re delighted to close the chapter on OCOT and excited about working with the proposed new agency.”

Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) president Ian Cunningham said the realignment of responsibilities should reduce confusion experienced by apprentices and employers, who were “pinballed” between the ministry and OCOT.

As in all enabling legislation, “the devil will be in the details,” Cunningham said. He said in his view the panel’s recommendations appeared balanced and neutral, with the “sticky” decisions such as the classification of trades as voluntary or compulsory to be determined in the future after Sherrard’s panel conducts future consultation.

“My general sense is that what has been proposed by Minister McNaughton is a compromise,” said Cunningham.

Statements from the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) also praised the government’s attempts to streamline the apprenticeship system. RESCON president Richard Lyall stated the legislation would create clearer pathways for youths interested in pursuing an apprenticeship and would “help end the stigma around careers in construction.”

RCCAO executive director Nadia Todorova said the tabling of the legislation was a “step in the right direction” in ensuring the development of the construction workforce Ontario needs.

Multiple ministry involvement

Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario, praised the focus the government is placing on promoting the skilled trades and said he expects his organization will continue to play a complementary role, implementing programs set up by the ministry and STO as the new agency begins to establish itself.

“There’s going to be some interplay between the agency and the ministry, and that will also involve other ministries as well,” Howcroft said. “You know there is a role for the colleges in apprenticeships and skilled trades, there is a role for the Ministry of Education, but I think the new structure will allow for better understanding and more clarification and a clearer path of who’s responsible for what.”

Two union representatives, LIUNA international vice-president Joseph Mancinelli and James Barry, executive secretary treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario, also supported the government initiative. Mancinelli said the new system would eliminate red tape for apprenticeship training and modernize the skilled trades.

Both Barry and Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, said they believe the era of skill sets, with trades’ scopes of practice splintered off, is now over. Skills sets were introduced in schedule 40 of Bill 100, Dillon noted, but he has been reassured by the ministry in briefings that the plan has been abandoned.

The Building Trades had just received a copy of the new act on May 10 and had not yet confirmed whether the legislation supported the preservation of traditional skill sets, he said.

“I have to say that from the Building Trades’ perspective, if what we’ve been hearing works out to be the reality, moving away from skill sets back to compulsory, licensed trades and fulsome trades for the voluntary trade was a major move on McNaughton’s part,” said Dillon.

Dillon said it’s also not yet clear what the makeup of STO’s board of directors will be. He said with construction trades providing much of the funding for the agency, there should be union representation on the board.

Schmidt of the OGCA suggested employer representation on the board would be appropriate. But COCA’s Cunningham said he understood it would not be a representative board, as was the OCOT board, but rather a “competency-based board.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Ontario to Modernize and Streamline Apprenticeship Training

The Ontario government is introducing new measures to help tradespeople get their certification from one reliable, streamlined destination through a new Crown agency, Skilled Trades Ontario, that would replace the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

Today, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, introduced the Building Opportunities in the Skilled TradesActlegislation designed to make the province’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system more efficient, accessible and easier to navigate.

Under the proposed legislation, Skilled Trades Ontario would become the province’s industry-informed training authority to lead the promotion, research and development of the latest apprenticeship training and curriculum standards. It will also provide a seamless one window experience for client-facing services including apprentice registration, issuance of certificates and renewals, and conduct equivalency assessments all in one place with many services offered digitally.

“Skilled trades workers are the engine of our economy,” said Minister McNaughton. “Under the current system, responsibilities are shared between OCOT and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, causing confusion and added burden for people wanting to pursue a career in the skilled trades, which leads to employers struggling to find qualified skilled trades workers. That is why our government is building a skilled trades system that attracts more people into well-paying and meaningful careers that are truly life-changing.”

As recommended by the Skilled Trades Panel’s first report, Ontario will streamline and simplify the apprenticeship system by establishing a new Crown agency. The Ministry will provide system oversight and be responsible for regulatory decisions, financial supports and take on responsibility for compliance and enforcement of the skilled trades, building on existing expertise, best practices and a robust inspector network that is already in place across the province.

“We heard loud and clear from apprentices, journeypersons and employers alike that OCOT is not working,” said Minister McNaughton. “Following our expert Panel’s recommendations, we are taking a thoughtful and measured approach by launching Skilled Trades Ontario, a new agency that will put the trades first.”

These initiatives are part of the government’s Skilled Trades Strategy, which includes reducing the stigma related to a trades career, simplifying the apprenticeship system, and encouraging business participation.

Quick Facts

  • Data suggests that the need to replace retiring workers is greater for skilled trades workers than for other occupations. In 2016, nearly one in three journeypersons were aged 55 years or older.
  • There are 144 skilled trades in Ontario.
  • The Skilled Trades Panel includes Michael Sherrard as the Chair, and industry representatives Jason Ottey, Melanie Winter, Shaun Scott and Melissa Young.
  • The Skilled Trades Panel is currently consulting on Phase 2 of its mandate, which will focus on classification and training in the trades. Those wishing to take part in the online consultation can visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/skilled-trades-panel-consultations.


“We welcome a new agency that takes a fresh approach and genuine interest in advancing Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system. We are hopeful that Skilled Trades Ontario will stay focused on its mandate to promote the trades and encourage employers to play a greater role in mentoring aspiring tradespeople from the start to finish of their apprenticeship. That’s the way to close the skills gap, lead economic recovery and keep Ontario competitive.”

– Stephen Hamilton
Chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA)

“Minister McNaughton continues to exemplify collaborative and strategic leadership in eliminating red-tape for apprenticeship training and enhance prosperous opportunities in the skilled-trades. The establishment of Skilled Trades Ontario, based on the recommendations of the Skills Trades Panel will demonstrate a responsive apprenticeship model for the future, modernizing the skilled trades and optimizing career building opportunities. The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is proud to continue its advocacy, in partnership with industry and government, to remove barriers and empower Ontario’s future workforce who remain the centre of building and strengthening communities across the province.”

– Joseph S. Mancinelli
LiUNA International Vice President and Regional Manager of Central and Eastern Canada

“The Building Trades Council welcomes Minister McNaughton’s legislative direction to protect the construction trades classification system.”

– Patrick J. Dillon
Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario

“I commend Minister McNaughton and Premier Ford for their unwavering commitment to the construction industry and for presenting a plan to streamline and simplify the skilled trades and apprenticeship system by restoring whole trades and establishing the new training agency, Skilled Trades Ontario. I look forward to working with the government on the Compliance and Enforcement framework.”

– James St. John
Business Manager / Financial Secretary, Central Ontario Building Trades, Director of the Hammer Heads Program

“IBEW applauds Minister McNaughton’s leadership by changing course with new legislation to stand up Skilled Trades Ontario. This marks a significant change from the previous legislative approach that would have seen skill sets erode electrical safety. IBEW is pleased to work with Government through the legislative process to ensure that any necessary amendments enhance the protection, growth and safety of Ontario’s electrical industry.”

– James Barry
Executive Secretary Treasurer, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Construction Council of Ontario

“Apprenticeship programs hold the power to give the next generation the training they need to build the manufacturing sector’s output, productivity, and profitability. Manufacturers have been proactively advocating for new approaches to streamline apprenticeship processes and improve the training for skilled workers. The creation of Skilled Trades Ontario is an important step to address labour and skills shortages facing manufacturers by simplifying apprenticeship requirements and attracting new skilled workers to the sector.”

– Mathew Wilson
Senior Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)

“Since Minister McNaughton became Minister of Labour, he has taken the time to get to know our industry and the issues that matter most, whether it’s protecting health and safety or ensuring that the skilled trades system is strong for years to come. I applaud the government for listening and for working closely with labour to develop a plan to simplify the system and for following through on their commitment to re-establishing whole trades instead of portable skill sets.”

– Bob Gougeon
SMART, Local 285, Business Manager / Financial Secretary

“On behalf of the Ontario Hairstylists Association, we look forward to working with the government and the ministry that will oversee skilled trades in Ontario. Launching a new system that is easier to navigate is a step in the right direction to help tradespeople move through, and into the system with greater ease. Employers will hopefully find this new system an asset to grow business and get people back to work, particularly after this long year and half of shutdown for our trade. We still have a lot of work to do to ease the red tape for hairstylists and we remain hopeful that the Skilled Trades Panel and Phase 2 around classifications will remove hairstyling from being a compulsory trade.”

– Ontario Hairstylists Association

“Merit Ontario welcomes the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act as it will further modernize the skilled trades and reduce the barriers to entry faced by marginalized groups. This builds on the essential measures taken by the Ford Government and Minister McNaughton to ensure that Ontarians know that a career in the skilled trades is respected, well-paying, and brings the dignity of work to the entire community. Our organization stands ready to do our part to make the skilled trades more inclusive while remaining a primary choice for Ontario’s youth.”

– Mike Gallardo
President & CEO, Merit Ontario

“By establishing Skilled Trades Ontario, the province is helping connect employers with the tradespersons and apprentices they need, particularly as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic. Builders and professional renovators know how important it is to reduce the stigma around skilled trades, simplify the system and make it easier to connect with the tradespersons we need to help address the housing needs of Ontario families, now and into the future.”

– Joe Vaccaro
CEO, Ontario Home Builders Association

City officials, local experts look at changing space and face of Barrie

By: Nikki Cole

‘Let’s be honest. In the past, Barrie was a poster child for urban sprawl with almost universally low-density residential and commercial forms of development,’ says mayor.

The City of Barrie has grown significantly in recent years, and officials are taking a closer look at how that growth has changed the space  and the face  of the municipality.

A panel of the city’s experts came together this week to discuss local growth through a variety of different lenses  including planning, economic, cultural, and social  to see how the city can better address the housing affordability crisis and better plan for the future.

“Anybody who knows the greater Golden Horseshoe knows we are forecast to grow, but the numbers are daunting,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said during an online event hosted this week by the Urban Land Institute.

Provincial projections have the city growing to 298,000 people by 2051, which he noted will more than double the current population. 

“Until this year, I would’ve doubted that forecast. I’d have told you that was an aggressive number, but COVID has changed many things, and one of those things is people’s perception of the future of work and how location of work is decoupling for people of certain industries,” Lehman said.

As the city has grown and changed, so too has the inequality within its limits, the mayor added.

“It’s not only about physical planning and buildings. Cities are a collection of individuals making choices about their life (and) the face of Barrie is very much changing,” Lehman said. “One of the challenges we have is to tackle the growing inequality that even COVID is throwing into sharp relief.

“The last year has shown us the difference in the social determinants of health between racialized neighbourhoods and non-racialized neighbourhoods, for example, is an issue in every Canadian city, including Barrie,” he added. 

Regional centre

Despite the view by some of Barrie as being a “bedroom community” to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Lehman said he has always had a vision of the city as being a regional centre to Simcoe County and northern York Region  similar to how Kitchener-Waterloo is for that part of southern Ontario.

“We have a goal of being a city where people can find good and fulfilling careers  not just jobs or a population serving employment, but an economy that’s unto itself and creates opportunities for our young people to stay, grow and learn,” Lehman said.

Events of the last few years have also shone a light on the need for the community to become a place where everyone feels at home, he added.

“That means tackling issues of social inequality, tackling issues like racism and poverty in our community,” Lehman said. 

The City of Barrie reached its boundaries approximately 10 years ago. Since then, officials have been planning the next stage for the community. That plan, acknowledged Lehman, is going to look very different than what the municipality has done in the past. 

“Let’s be honest. In the past, Barrie was a poster child for urban sprawl with almost universally low-density residential and commercial forms of development. We grew almost exclusively through intensification because very little greenfield land was left,” he said. 

Secondary development, he continued, is starting to begin and is expected to be different from what has been built in more recent years, having been modelled on the city’s older east end.

“As a mayor, you’re supposed to love all your children equally… you’re not supposed to have a favourite neighbourhood or restaurant, but for me it’s the older east end, (which is) more walkable and (has) more diversity of housing types.”

That diversity in housing options is key to becoming a city that people want to live in  and one they can actually afford to live in.

“We need a greater range of supply. It’s not just a supply of single, detached homes. It’s a shortage of the missing middle, low-rise apartments, townhouses, highrise apartments, supportive and social housing. We need that whole spectrum of additional supply if we are going to address the affordability issue.”

Growing up, not out

One way of doing that, Lehman noted, is to build up rather than out.

“We are starting to see a huge amount of height coming into our urban growth centre on a scale Barrie hasn’t experienced before,” he said. “Traditionally, the proforma for high-density development in Barrie really only worked if you had a water view… (but) that’s changing.”

The city is seeing a large increase in the number of highrise proposals, with 14 developments in the urban growth centre. Those developments would total more than 3,000 residential units and more than a quarter of a million square metres of commercial gross floor area. The highest tower would be 41 storeys. Currently, the tallest building in the city is 16 storeys.

“That is transformative,” said Lehman, acknowledging some people have pushed back against the proposals while others do see it as progress. “That is a dramatic change in built form and not without controversy, but it happens to be right at the heart of the community in the west end of our downtown.

“Many people don’t see the impact of density as positive; many see it as contributing to crime, traffic, etc, but it creates customers for shops and services in our historic downtown, which is key to the vision we have for the future,” the mayor added.

Addressing the crisis

It’s no secret that housing prices have gone through the roof over the last few years, but Barrie was in a housing crisis long before that, with the lowest percentage of rental properties and the highest percentage of ownership in the region.

Lehman says that’s due to how the city grew in the 1980s and ’90s. While that did create some strengths, it also created a severe affordability crisis when it comes to rent. Currently, a one-bedroom apartment in the city is only $100 less than that of a similar unit in the GTA, he noted.

A city’s growth needs to be about more than just the changing space. It needs to also be about the changing face of those who call it home. 

A mass exodus from large cities during the pandemic is also contributing to the city’s growth, and in turn, helping to change the face of Barrie to include a broader and more diverse population.

“It’s great to see we have people from many different backgrounds who are finding a bit of a community here that they want to be part of,” said Lehman, adding the city is taking more effort to ensure Barrie is a welcoming location for people of all backgrounds as it continues to grow.

“My elevator pitch for Barrie… was that both Bay Street and the dock (weren’t) far away. We are perfectly located halfway between the GTA and the recreational playground of Ontario of Muskoka and Georgian Bay… but I want us to be a community that has an elevator pitch that is stronger than just the location,” he explained.

Lehman said he wants it to also be about the people, organizations and networks that exist here.

“Whether we are growing a business, talking about communities and new Canadians arriving and choosing to raise their families here… we want them to find not only people that look like them, but also organizations that support their integration into our community and celebrate their own diverse backgrounds,” he said. 

Barrie’s got talent

Whether it’s growth in development or the economy, Barrie’s director of economic and creative development, Stephannie Schlichter, says it’s all relatable through an economic lens.

“Talent ties to everything in terms of entrepreneurs feeding the industry that’s here,” she said. “Everything is wrapped around, from tourism and who you target from that lens to how do we support from an inclusion perspective or how does our built form support those that need to be here and drive those from the different forms of talent we need.”

Creating a thread of inclusion between all members of the community is key, said Michèle Newton, president and co-founder of Making Change, an organization that focuses on raising awareness and educating and exposing people to the Black community, Black culture, and issues around anti-Black racism.

“All of the work we are doing is really working toward the inclusion puzzle and the thing about it is that it’s a new puzzle we each have to build together,” Newton said. “Each puzzle piece still looks different, there are different coloured ones, different shapes and sizes. … When one is missing, that puzzle is not complete.

“For everybody to be in a community where it’s growing and changing this face and place, each puzzle piece needs to be there for it to be the real future,” she added. 

Time to bridge the gap

Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and Newton agreed.

“When you do the same thing… you should expect the same results which is no uptake from these diverse communities,” she said.

Through conversations with individuals, Newton says the consensus seems to be they don’t feel there’s been a thread that they’ve been able to latch on to.

“Something is missing. There’s a gap,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like you’re trying to fit into a place that’s already there, and a lot of us from marginalized communities don’t want to fit into something that’s already there.

“We want to build something new together.”

Lehman agreed. He said as planners they tend to talk about the fabric of communities in a very physical sense  public spaces, trails and transportation  but it actually goes beyond that. 

“One of the things confronting in our community… is so much of this tends to happen without the discussion among different communities,” he said. “When we talk about inclusion, it’s a classic problem. We do consultation and all too often we consult with the same people because the same people self-select.

“We need to go beyond that and there needs to be a conscious attempt to reach out to different communities,” Lehman added. “As we change and move forward… reaching that changing face requires some intentionality.”