Residential Construction – Ottawa’s Quiet Economic Engine
Here’s what the residential construction and renovation industry means to the City and people of Ottawa: jobs, economic growth across the city, and, most importantly, homes for our families.
Building and renovating homes is a significant engine of Ottawa’s economy – it means 43,000 on-site and off-site jobs and $2.8 billion in wages.
It also means $5 billion worth of economic activity across the capital.
Housing construction numbers have seen year over year increases since 2017 (COVID being a mere two week hiccup), and 2021 is on track to be strongest year for new housing activity in Ottawa since 2002.
The strength in housing since 2017 is largely coming from pent-up demand. Between 2002 and 2016 the average number new home starts was 1,000 units lower than current production.
Even with these increased rates though, demand for new homes continues to outstrip supply. Consider that Ottawa has had a fully functional housing market over the past year and a half with no immigration and no international students – basically with no external demands on housing.
Residents know that Ottawa is experiencing the impacts of an insufficient housing supply, but a recent Scotiabank report elaborates on the decline – the number of housing units per 1000 residents in Ottawa-Gatineau decreased from 421 in 2016 to 412 in 2020.
In order for us just to get back to that 2016 number, we’d have to build 9,000 new homes now – over a year’s worth of activity – and that’s without considering our future population growth.
Over the next two decades there will be tremendous pressure to build enough homes to meet Ottawa’s growing population while significantly increasing intensification.
Housing supply has been in sharp focus recently – not only was it a significant issue in the federal election, but it is the subject of a new report from Mike Moffatt, Senior Director of Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute.
Moffatt notes that the Ontario Ministry of Finance projects the City of Ottawa’s population to grow by 192,510 persons over the next 10 years. It grew by 118,448 from 2006-16. Over the next 10 years, Smart Prosperity Institute projects an additional 82,409 households, on net, living in Ottawa, occupying 17,651 high rise apartment units and 64,758 low and medium density housing units, on net.
The number of new homes added each year is also important because it’s a significant factor in keeping prices reasonable. It is critical that Ottawa provide a range of housing and lifestyle options for residents if it wants to attract and retain talented people, businesses and economic development opportunities.
Our housing affordability is an economic competitive advantage for employers compared to Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere, so we need to protect it.
GOHBA and its volunteer members work closely with City of Ottawa staff with an eye to ensuring that housing policies and/or development application requirements be considered through a housing affordability lens.
Having affordable housing is also critical to the residential construction industry as it faces a significant shortfall in skilled labour in the coming years. According to BuildForce Canada, our industry will have to hire over 100,000 new skilled workers in the coming decade across the country to address mass retirements as our workforce ages – or 20% of the entire skilled workforce.
As part of our efforts to promote skilled trade careers GOHBA is forging partnerships with educational institutions like Algonquin College, who are the largest source of training in the Greater Ottawa area. We’re also working with organizations like the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region, who have a strong history of working with underrepresented groups so that they can have better access to skilled trade careers.
Over 2020 and 2021 the provincial government declared residential construction and renovation an essential industry – allowing most building and renovation sites to stay open during the wider lockdown. It did this in large part because professional builders and renovators maintain high health and safety standards, and were quick to adopt stringent COVID protocols.
Those working in the industry remained safe and employed throughout the pandemic.
Residential construction in Ottawa will continue to be a sector of growth, bringing with it a demand for jobs at all skill levels.
The Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association is the proud voice for excellence in the home building community. Our 320+ members represent the best of Ottawa’s new home construction and professional renovation industry.