The first GOHBA was an opportunity for the new mayor to meet with the builders, as well as share with them what he and city council see as their plans and priorities.
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The parking lot was packed outside the Centurion Conference and Event Center this morning as a sold-out crowd of 200 came to hear Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe speak at the first breakfast social of the year for the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA). It was an opportunity for the new mayor to meet with the builders, as well as share with them what he and city council see as their plans and priorities. His overarching message was about working together. “There are many ways to divide our city and there’s only one way to unite it, and that’s by getting everyone working together toward a common purpose,” said Sutcliffe in telling his audience that his door is always open to them. One of Sutcliffe’s promises in the 2022 municipal election was to build 100,000 more homes in Ottawa over the next 10 years, including 10,000 affordable homes. “The simple truth is that we’re not building homes quickly enough, and we need to find solutions to achieve growth that is sustainable and affordable,” said the mayor in acknowledging that “none of this is going to be easy”, especially with high inflation and interest rates, and an affordability crisis. Sutcliffe touched on the need for smart intensification, of converting existing office buildings into residential developments, and of using city-owned land to create more affordable housing. “Work with me, work with your new city council, work with city staff, work with all of us to build more homes, work with all of us to eliminate the barriers that block or slow down the process of building more homes,” said Sutcliffe. “Bring your creative ideas, bring your solutions, bring your wisdom and expertise, and bring your energy. The best way for us to create more construction is to be more constructive.” New home builders and professional renovators account for 37,000 jobs across Ottawa, with $2.5 billion in wages and $5 billion in economic investment. The breakfast was sponsored by Ottawa-based transportation infrastructure company Tomlinson, which was represented by Tim Vizena, vice president of Tomlinson Infrastructure. Each month, some 800 families move into a new home in Ottawa, thereby freeing up a vacancy for somebody else, said Jason Burggraaf, executive director of GOHBA. “The supply of new homes is critical to everyone’s prosperity and everyone’s well-being across the city. No matter where that new home is, no matter what type of building it is, the supply is critical.” Economic development is paramount, said the mayor, who has a strong background in business and is a former board chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade. “Together, I believe we have an opportunity to revitalize our city, create more jobs and build a better economy for everyone, and that’s really important. When people ask me about my top priority, it’s very hard, obviously, to choose among the many priorities we have as a city, but first and foremost for me is a vibrant economy because that creates the jobs, that creates the wealth, that creates the tax revenue, that creates the opportunity for us to tackle all the other social objectives and challenges that we face, including affordable housing and reducing homelessness.” Sutcliffe described the new city council as “strong, experienced and diverse”. So far, it's been really gelling as a team, the room heard. “I’m proud to be working closely with each and every member of city council. I think we’ve already begun to demonstrate a new tone and a new approach of cooperation and collaboration that bodes very well for the next four years.” He put a plug in for the city’s Engage Ottawa website, which serves as a resource for residents and business by, among other things, providing an overview of the provincial legislation and how it impacts real estate and economic development in Ottawa. Sutcliffe, who made the pledge not to accept donations from developers during his campaign, began his remarks on a light-hearted note by sharing the story of how he came to be the breakfast speaker for GOHBA. It goes back to an encounter he had last Oct. 24th, on election day. GOHBA’s director of business development and membership, Soula Burrell, zoomed in on him outside the Costco in Kanata. He'd been doing last-minute campaigning with big-box retail shoppers “before the people at Costco asked us to leave because we were not supposed to be campaigning on their property”. Anyway, Burrell got the mayoral candidate to promise — should he win — that he’d speak at GOHBA’s first breakfast social of 2023. “Of course I said ‘Yes’, and here I am today,” Sutcliffe said to applause from the audience. “But, I probably would have come, anyway.” Following his remarks, Sutcliffe participated in a fireside chat with Burggraaf and also fielded some questions from the audience. email@example.com