The Canadian Home Builders Association of Newfoundland Labrador
Serving the Residential Construction Industry
Making housing affordable and available remains top-of-the-agenda for the Canadian Home Builders Association of Newfoundland and Labrador
Established to guide regionally-based residential builders, The Canadian Home Builders Association of Newfoundland Labrador (CHBA-NL) is a non-profit, industry association whose members include new home builders, renovators, developers, skilled tradespeople, product and material manufacturers, building product suppliers, lending institutions, insurance providers, and other service professionals.
The association’s mandate is to be the voice of the residential construction industry, serving its members and consumers by promoting and advocating for quality construction, ethical business practices, enforceable codes and standards, labor market needs, and affordability and choice in housing options for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Founded in 1956, the CHBA-NL’s work is overseen by 10 volunteer committees in areas as diverse as technical and economic research, education and training, renovation, land development, the environment, and marketing.
It offers its 150 member businesses a wide range of benefits including local, provincial, and federal government advocacy; training sessions and educational programs; membership in the national CHBA; value-added programs such as member discounts and access to group advertising; monthly luncheon meetings; local and national conferences and seminars; partnerships with local individuals and organizations that help support the sector; and most importantly, the ability to contribute real solutions and make positive change in the industry.
Canada needs more housing
Alexis Foster, CHBA-NL’s Executive Officer, says that there are a lot of things that need to happen in Canada before the national CHBA and its 50 affiliate associations across the commonwealth can fulfill one of its main goals: making home ownership more available and affordable. “Currently, in Canada, we are 3.5 million homes away from what we need,” she states. “So, we need to build another 3.5 million homes in the next ten years. That is on top of the 2.3 million that we normally build in that same period.”
Key among the items advocated by the CHBA-NL in pursuit of that laudable objective include: lowering interest rates, which have slowed the housing market by making mortgages less affordable; extending amortization periods to spread out and lower monthly mortgage payments; and providing renovation tax credits for first-time home buyers.
“We have so many young people who are trying to become homeowners and a lot of times, their options are a little more limited than what they can afford,” Foster explains. “So, an older home might be perfect for them, but they might need to do a bit of renovation to make it their own. This would offer them a tax credit to buy an older home and make the renovations they need on it.”
Other advocacy items on the federal level include: recommending changes for upgraded national building codes and standards and reforming the tax rules regarding purpose-built rentals, which are self-contained buildings with five or more dwelling units that are intended to be used for rental housing. “We’re bringing over immigrants to Canada, right now, and we need places to house them,” Foster relates. “So we’re asking that that be done.
“Also, we were at a meeting with the federal administrator of housing recently and we told him that when they’re looking to bring in new immigrants from across the world, they focus on those who are skilled in construction. We need skilled labor, right now, in our sector. That’s one of the biggest challenges that we keep hearing from our members. They have people who want them to build their homes, but it’s very difficult finding skilled tradespeople to build them.”
Meanwhile, there is some good news on the federal level. “There’s a great program out currently called the Canada Greener Homes grant program,” Foster reports. “It offers Canadians a rebate on certain energy efficiency retrofits. You get an energy auditor to come into your home and tell you where you might have deficiencies or some things that might need to be fixed. For example, the program would allow you to get a rebate on a heat pump. So, it’s a great opportunity to make your home more efficient. And it should be going on for another six years.”
The local scene
The housing industry is unregulated in Newfoundland and Labrador. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to conduct due diligence when hiring a contractor. So, Foster would like to see some form of contractor licensing come to pass in the province.
“Currently, the only province in Canada that has contractor licensing is British Columbia,” she says. “So, we would love to see contractor licensing come in so that there are some standards set in place for builders; that you’re not just getting ‘chuck and a truck’ as some people call it.”
“Through this program, we would help add some more consumer protections to the sector; you would know you would be getting someone who is going to build your home to code, that they have taken additional training, they know what they’re doing, and they’re trying to be the best of the best. That’s what we’ve been aiming for, for a while.”
On a positive note, Foster reports that the CHBA-NL is supporting a provincial budget allocation of $350 million to create 800 affordable new homes over the next three years in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We were included in the consultation process when they were developing this program,” she notes. “So, that’s something that we’re excited to see. Hopefully, our members will participate in that program and help build some of these homes.”
The provincial government was also helpful during the COVID pandemic, when, somewhat counterintuitively, the home renovation industry thrived even as the general economy devolved.
“The sector, as a whole, was incredibly busy because people were stuck in their homes,” Foster recounts.
“You realize your ‘pinch points’ and things you’d like to change or fix. So, during COVID, we were very fortunate to be working with our provincial government’s phenomenal home renovation rebate program. We saw so many people investing in the sector and taking advantage of that program to do renovations on their homes and utilizing our members to do that.”
Getting back to normal
Of course, the downside of COVID was that it was very difficult to stay in touch with CHBA-NL members as major association events had to be canceled and/or postponed. “We normally have a home show every year,” says Foster.
“Last year was the first show we’ve had in three years, and last year, one day even got canceled due to a pretty severe snowstorm. So, we’re hoping this next year’s show, which is April 12-14, will have a great turnout. Consumers will be able to see what’s available here in the province and some of our members will be able to get in front of consumers and get their year set up. We’re hopeful, now that COVID’s behind us, we can get back to our new normal.”
The road ahead
Going forward, Foster says she would like to grow the CHBA-NL membership, especially so they can take advantage of some innovative programs sponsored by the national CHBA. One new program is its Adaptive Home Renovation Course aimed at renovators, designers, and other professionals who want to learn more about the aging-in-place market and the growing business opportunities across the country.
The Adaptive Home Renovation Course is the first step in becoming part of a network of professionals who offer services to homeowners who want to live in their homes safely and comfortably for as long as possible regardless of age, ability, size, or circumstance. When done correctly, these home modifications can significantly improve the quality of life for elderly homeowners.
Another program available to members is called RenoMark. It identifies professional renovators and contractors who have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific code of conduct, which promises a standard of performance and protection higher than common industry practice. A RenoMark renovator must be fully licensed and permitted, must provide a detailed and written contract for all jobs, carry appropriate insurance, and offer a minimum 2-year warranty on their work. The Renovators Mark of Excellence makes it easy for homeowners to identify participating professional renovators who have agreed to provide a superior level of service.
In conclusion, Foster reiterates that the CHBA-NL exists for the industry sector as a whole.
“You might not feel that you fit directly into the residential home-building sector, but we are here for many different types of businesses that help people make their houses and homes. And we are here to ensure that everybody can afford a home; we advocate on that platform.”
“Finally, we support our members in a lot of ways and there are many benefits to becoming a member of CHBA-NL. And we are stronger, the more members we have, because it helps us elevate our voice,” she concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
The Canadian Home Builders’ Association of Newfoundland Labrador
WHAT: A non-profit trade association
WHERE: St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada