BILD says it will resign from OHBA unless new “operational arrangement” is negotiated

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ontario’s largest local home building association says it will resign from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) and “reassess its membership” in the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) if a new “operational arrangement” is not negotiated by Nov. 14.

The decision by the Building and Land Development Association (BILD), representing 1,200 members in the Greater Toronto Area, will either reshape relationships within the associations or create a major rift that would drastically impact the OHBA’s budget and industry advocacy initiatives.

BILD president and CEO Dave Wilkes announced the action in a June 28 Member Update.  OHBA CEO Luca Bucci responded the next day with his own memo, saying the provincial association is prepared to work with BILD, while pointing out that the industry is best served by unified “one voice” collective advocacy efforts.

In an interview on Friday (June 29), Bucci said that BILD remits about $350 to $400 in membership dues each year to the OHBA. This would represent more than $420,000 annually. OHBA has somewhat more than 4,000 members – so BILD’s departure would represent a loss of close to one-third of its membership revenue.

“To date, they (BILD) haven’t communicated anything to us with respect to some of the changes they want to see, aside from broadly stating there is a need to achieve ‘effectiveness, efficiencies and remove duplication’,” Bucci said. “The measures required to achieve this to the satisfaction to BILD have not been made clear, but there have been discussions amongst the associations – not just BILD and the OHBA – that we need to be a bit more streamlined in how we offer services to our members.

“And that’s finding ways to share services with our other HBAs (Home Builders Associations). We’ve implemented an approach on government relationships where we have shared resources to put through a pretty united and concerted advocacy effort. In fact, last August the OHBA launched a five-point advocacy plan in partnership with BILD and other HBA’s. The plan was very GTA centric and focused on a number of planning process issues inhibiting BILD/ OHBA members from building homes, as well as focusing on aspects of the development charge regime that needed to be changed in an effort to restore affordability,” he said. “This plan is on or website, and a lot of the changes we advocated for ended up being realized when the government tabled Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, in October.”

In its memo, however, BILD’s president says the provincial and national associations haven’t gone far enough to support the concerns of their largest cities – and members.

“In the last few years, BILD has repeatedly sought to voice our members’ concerns, look for solutions and increase the effectiveness of the current “one voice’ model,” Wilkes said in his memo.  “Our objective was, and continues to be, to elevate the effectiveness of our collective association system for the industry and its customers.

“It is an unfortunate reality that many of the policy issues that influence housing supply and affordability first affect major markets like the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Vancouver and then migrate to other markets.

“It is in this context that we require an advocacy and association system that prioritizes GTA issues, not simply because they matter to us, BILD members, but because they will eventually affect everyone across the country and we need to set the right precedent from the outset.”

In his memo, Wilkes described a meeting where the CHBA’s CEO Kevin Lee and president Sue Wastell, along with the OHBA’s Bucci and president Louie Zagordo, who were invited “to address BiLD’s concerns and present plans of action of their respective associations would undertake to maximize member value and increase effectiveness and efficiency.”

“BILD’s board was not satisfied with the CHBA and OHBAs response to BILD’s latest request” and so voted at its June 20 board meeting to advise that unless the operational arrangements change by Nov. 14, “BILD will not renew its membership in OHBA, effective Jan. 1, 2024.”

Bucci said he hopes that BILD and the OHBA will resolve their differences, noting that the recent election of Olivia Chow as Toronto’s mayor will change the advocacy environment and create new challenges, where the “one voice” resources of the provincial organization, and the collaborative advocacy approach it has taken with BILD and other HBA’s since the start of his tenure, will be increasingly important.

For some years, both the provincial government under the provincial Conservatives led by Doug Ford and Toronto’s former Mayor John Tory have been on good terms with the home building industry – with changes such as the “strong Mayor” system implemented to speed up development and reduce NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) barriers.

What will happen now that there is a more leftist Mayor in Toronto – and there could be a change in upcoming years to a less-friendly provincial government, Bucci asked.

“We are focused as associations to build a strong advocacy arm that’s going to work at all times, and we’re dealing with governments that aren’t as friendly as the ones that we’ve been dealing with for the past three or four years.

“And the best way to do that is through a unified voice? To (have) one voice and represent the industry . . . it’s going to be my job over the next couple of months to make that point to our associations’ respective leadership.”

Initially, a BILD spokesperson declined comment on the controversy. “The letter you are referencing was in fact an internal member bulletin, on an internal association issue, and not for public consumption,” wrote Justin Sherwood, BILD’s senior vice-president, communications and stakeholder relations. “That you received an OHBA correspondence on the matter is most likely an error on their part,” he wrote.

After Ontario Construction News sent a working draft of the story to Sherwood, he responded with this observation:

“For the sake of accuracy I would point out that we have communicated with OHBA what would like to see in that we are looking to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness and to reduce duplication to the benefit of industry.”

“These discussions have been taking place for many years, and formally since November 2020 with then president Bob Schikedanz and Joe Vaccaro,” Sherwood wrote in an email on Sunday. “More recently with Luca Bucci and Louie Zagordo have met directly with BILD President and CEO and BILD Chair Jason Sheldon, and Luca/Louie being invited to BILD’s Board in April (2023) to present on the topic.”

Sherwood also provided this statement from BILD president and CEO Dave Wilkes:

“BILD supports the need for an effective one voice model as a responsible mechanism to ensure the perspectives of the new home, development and home renovation industries and their customers are heard. We have been working over the past five years to find ways to strengthen a new operational model that reduces duplication and increases effectiveness.

“There has been steady progress, including most recently an agreement in principle for BILD to provide education services for the entire OHBA renovator constituency not simply just BILD members, but much more needs to be done.

“The BILD motion is a mechanism to further the development of a more effective operational model to support our industry by providing a timeframe and framework for accelerating these discussions, not simply pushing the issue down the road. As OHBA’s largest member and accounting for nearly a third of the organization’s membership revenue it is our responsibility as a customer to define the services and delivery mechanism that meets our members’ and industry needs.

“We look forward to working with OHBA’s Board and staff to build on past collaborative success and achieve the shared goal of more effective and efficient industry associations that leverage collective strengths and resources on behalf of all our members,” Wilkes said in his statement.

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