Earlier this month the federal government released a document called “Solving the Housing Crisis: Canada’s Housing Plan,” which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touts as “a bold strategy.”

The plan starts with an acknowledgment that this file has been ignored for a long time, by politicians of all stripes and at all levels of government — which is true, but to be fair, this is a wicked problem. It requires an all-hands-on-deck integrated approach. That’s what this could be, with a few tweaks.

For one, the housing plan is missing a goal and a deadline to focus efforts. An appropriate goal would be to aim for all Canadians to be in a home they can afford and that meets their family needs, by 2034. It’s a short timeline for the development industry, but a long time if you are one of the 250,000 Canadians living on the street.

The set of policies in the plan are good, but then Canadians are good at making policies. Unfortunately, we are bad at achieving the hoped-for outcomes. Think of the many times governments have tried to speed up the processing of planning applications, only to find that municipal planning departments just make the process more complex and subvert the policies.

Using the expertise of the private sector is required, but we’ve had very questionable results there too. ArriveCan being the latest, but Phoenix federal pay system being perhaps the most egregious. How do we get private sector results without falling into those procurement traps? We need to attract deep industry knowledge to the public service to make better deals.

The building industry (of which I am part) has deep expertise building housing, and the government has shown that it is — occasionally — capable of harnessing it to deliver results in the public interest. An example of a government program that does this is CMHC’s Apartment Construction Loan Program. It offers better loan rates, including lower risk, in exchange for social goods such as affordability and energy efficiency. The more benefits offered by proponents, the better the rates and conditions. This program uses just enough public money to direct the existing housing industry to produce better results.

The new plan includes protections for renters, which is good, but should also include support for condominium owners. We could make it easier for small buildings like fourplexes to be condominiums so they can be bought and sold separately.

Missing is support for the forms of housing that go beyond having a roof over your head and actively builds community, like community-owned non-profits and owner-occupied co-housing projects. It’s important because balanced non-profit ownership keeps rents reasonable over the long term.

While we’re at it, we need an emphasis on economically unlocking three- and four-bedroom units in multi-residential projects so that families can live comfortably. This is crucial to get the public benefits of strong mixed communities with low servicing costs.

The destruction of our forest and wetland ecologies will make the planet unlivable. We need #housing policies that intensify our use of space within urban boundaries, writes @sheenasharp #cdnpoli

Also missing from this plan is support for bicycles, scooters and the like within their residences, which complements public transit and offers the convenience of cars at a fraction of the cost. We need to consider long-term municipal infrastructure costs and make moves to keep those costs reasonable.

Finally, solving our housing crisis is not in competition for dollars with climate action. This plan can actually drive climate action.

These new homes and renovations need to be emissions-free to meet long-term goals of a decarbonized economy. This means more insulation, better windows, and all-electric heating. Otherwise, we risk a huge renovation bill in 10 years.

The destruction of our forest and wetland ecologies will make the planet unlivable, and the planet is close to the 50 per cent maximum for development. We need to choose policies that intensify our use of space within urban boundaries.

The plan needs more money, but what is the cost of not doing it? For many, it will be years lost living on the street, unable to work. It will mean a strain on the healthcare system. It will be a threat to the rest of the economy as people put all their available resources into rent. It will be people who don’t have a place to start families, and hours wasted commuting.

We need this housing plan; it is essential to creating real value in our economy and our lives. If the Prime Minister is willing to make these changes, it might just happen.

BIO: Sheena Sharp is a licensed architect with 30 years experience, much of it in the design and construction of housing. She is also the principal of Coolearth Architecture inc., a 15 year-old firm which specializes in low carbon design. She is also vice-chair of the board of Toronto 2030 District, a non-profit that focuses on economically decarbonizing buildings.

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And after the plan to make the plan work, we'll get a 10-point strategy to implement said plan for a plan, but not until after a committee hires a consultancy firm to review specifics on the strategy that the previous consulting firm conducted on the original strategy to implement the plan's plan, by which point the newly-appointed minister will need to be brought up to speed and ultimately decide that the strategy in place needs revising, but it's okay because they'll have a plan to do so, but not until after they're finished consulting with....

To state that municipal planning departments "subvert the process" is a gross generalization and is insulting. Has the architect author ever worked the other side of the counter she makes her applications to?

That one statement stopped me cold. I have the benefit of years spent in both roles, and my attitude toward city planners was similar until I actually worked the other side and saw what was coming in.

If she did she'd see that most problems that crop up in development and permit applications are the fault of the applicant. Incomplete submissions or changes to the plans mid-process are rampant, as is builder-developers trying to sneak in additional floor area. Planners have to analyze every sheet of the plan set, some of them humongous and thus a very time consuming process to check the architect's calculations. You'd be shocked at the level of mistakes, some of them purposeful and usually in favour of the applicant. Not meeting bylaw or negotiated requirements is another big issue. Many applicants go running to council when their applications are inadequate, don't meet permit requirements or are otherwise flawed. A councul inquiry is made, further delaying the process, and planning staff must respond with their technical reasoning. Most times council concurs.

"Subverting the process" directly implies that planning staff violate the very bylaws they are legally mandated to uphold. What dies the author prefer, that staff illegally approve projects that are not following byla

...bylaw requirements?

The author needs to understand that planners are her friends and conduct her applicarions accordingky. The applicants who follow the rules and make the effort to meet the clearly stated requirements from the beginning are the first ones out the door with that coveted Approved stamp, and the quickest to complete their projects and to move on to the next one with minimal delays. These applicants are few and far between.

Lastly, major cities are rampant with development and planning staff are overwhelmed with the volume of work, especially in cities with councils who do not give them enough resources to do what they are legally required to do, and where councillorsthemselves are .pigheaded and make irrational demands. In addition, planners are more often than not the very ones who are most committed to climate initiatives, sustainable urbanism and new ideas, but they also need time to adjust to new rules and major changes to building codes imposed from above. That on top of record development application volumes.

Give planners a break. And stop insulting them with stupid assertions that they are illegally subverting the process.

This guy is dreaming in technicolor or disingenuous:

"This program uses just enough public money to direct the existing housing industry to produce better results."

Spoken like someone who is part of that existing housing industry. Less biased observers find it hard not to notice that no amount of public money ever seems to successfully direct the existing housing industry to produce better results. They always find loopholes so they can keep on producing the worse results that make them more profit. If there are no such loopholes, they don't participate in whatever program.

If the government wants the expertise of the private sector, it should expropriate some building companies and help the workers unionize.