- New Regs = New Future: New regulations for the Housing Services Act will bring some fairly significant changes to the community housing sector. Hear from HSC’s Business Solutions lead, Judy Lightbound, on the changes and how they will change the relationships between community housing providers and Service Managers.
- Financial Markets and Capital Reserve Investments: Many housing providers are concerned about the performance of their investments in the current marketplace. In this article, we offer our take on things and what we are doing — and can do — to help.
- Highlights from our Newsletters: Read the best of Managing Risky Business and Energy Matters over the past few months.
- Webinars: Learn about what our roster of experts discussed. Get recordings and slides from the sessions.
- Bringing Stakeholders Together: We are back to in-person meetings with our clients and stakeholders. Learn about two of these that were recently held and what we discussed.
- HSC is Moving! In the new year, we will be in a new office. Read about why we are moving and where we’ll be located.
- Join our Board: We have four upcoming vacancies on our board for Service Manager and non-profit housing representatives. Are you interested and eligible?
- IDEA at HSC: Learn about an exciting internal initiative we are working on to deliberately embed Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) principles into our programs, policies and workplace.
- Comings and Goings: Sector people on the move.
New Regs = New Future
Over the past several years, HSC’s Business Solutions unit has worked closely with many Service Managers and housing providers on a wide range of projects – including housing and homelessness plans, financial modelling, portfolio evaluations and more. The unit has a unique view into how different organizations are undertaking their strategic and portfolio planning, the administration of their housing as well as the rollout of programs from senior levels of government.
Judy Lightbound is a member of HSC’s Senior Management Team and has been leading our Business Solutions unit since its inception. Here’s what she had to say in response to a series of questions about what she’s noticing in housing.
Q: HSC has a specific perspective on trends in the sector. Can you tell us a bit about that?
HSC is so fortunate to have been able to work with close to half of Ontario’s Service Managers over the last three years as they undertake their future planning. This has included Housing & Homelessness Plans, financial modelling, viability studies, asset management plans, and master housing plans.
Because we have had an opportunity to understand the operations across Ontario, we are very uniquely placed to see trends and best practices.
Q: Are there any noteworthy developments or trends that you’ve observed over the past year?
There is so much media and political focus right now on affordable housing and supportive housing, but the role that community housing plays has been largely overlooked. The recently released Housing Services Act regulations (241/22) signal a massive change to the community housing sector and there are opportunities, but also challenges. Implementing these new regulatory changes will require significant work on the part of both Service Managers and housing providers.
Q: What’s important about the regulations?
The regulations represent a significant change to how community housing will be funded and administered; and they fundamentally change the relationship between Service Managers and their housing providers. The implementation of the regulations also requires both Service Manager staff and housing provider boards to take on some new activities, including strategic planning, financial analysis and modelling, capital planning and contract negotiations. There is work to be done in the sector to build the capacity of everyone to undertake these activities.
“The new regulations recognize the critical importance of community housing and suggest that the future of this housing stock will be based on communication, collaboration and the achievement of mutual goals.”
Q: What is involved in this process?
It begins with conversations between housing providers and Service Managers, then involves developing a financial plan and finally ends with actual agreements – moving to a Part VII.1 service agreement or an exit agreement. Housing providers must be informed about the new regulations; data must be collected to complete a financial and capital plan; new asset management and/or master housing plans may need to be developed; financial modelling must occur to examine different funding scenarios; and service agreements must be drafted and negotiated. All the while keeping the lines of communication between the Service Manager and housing providers open.
Along the way, there will be questions that need to be answered and addressed. For example, how might a provider’s financial viability be improved? How might you finance the capital repairs that may be involved? Can any mergers or amalgamations be facilitated?
Q: What are the impacts of this change to the housing system?
I think everyone agrees that the ultimate impact is a positive one. It appropriately places the decisions about future funding and administration at the local level and encourages a mutual discussion about how to best support housing provider financial viability. The new regulations recognize the critical importance of community housing and suggest that the future of this housing stock will be based on communication, collaboration and the achievement of mutual goals.
Q: Can HSC help?
Although HSC Business Solutions is only a few years old, HSC has actually been working on EOA/M planning for 10 years. We see ourselves doing more of what we have already been doing, and using our experience, expertise and sector knowledge to support Service Managers to plan for, and work through with their providers, the implementation of the new regulations. We can help Service Managers by facilitating discussions between them and providers; compiling and analyzing data to create financial plans. Furthermore, we can assist with building provider capacity; and support the move to new service or exit agreements and the change management work associated with all of this. We can support throughout the full process. I encourage Service Managers to contact us to discuss their individual needs.
Financial Markets and Capital Reserve Investments
We are living through tough financial times. Increases in the cost of living due to inflation and higher interest rates have affected both residents and housing staff. The cost of capital repairs and new builds have gone up. And providers with money invested in the capital reserve investment program operated by Encasa have also been affected by the double whammy of higher inflation and interest rates.
The challenges associated with the investment marketplace have been significant. The first six months of 2022 were the worst for investors since the 1930s. The declines have not been confined to one part of the market. Both equities and bonds have gone down. “Normally, stocks and bonds have an inverse relationship… bonds have had a ballast effect when stocks go down. That’s not happening this year,” notes one investment planner. Another investment expert hypothesizes that the “the market is going through a crisis of confidence.”
These worries are not limited to individual investors. Non-profits with investments managed by Encasa have also voiced their concerns, looking at their investment statements and seeing dramatic paper losses. Many have considered cashing out to contain their losses and to eliminate the financial risk of the current market.
While investors might think that this is a conservative move, it’s actually a very risky one given the history of markets. The article notes, “it can be tempting to ‘cash out’ and avoid further losses…But doing so only ‘crystalizes’ losses to date…and can come at the expense of gains when the market cycles back towards growth.”
The objective of the Capital Reserve Investment Program is long-term capital appreciation, as noted in the Auditor General report that prompted its creation. And Encasa investments have lived up to this goal, even if you factor in the recent declines seen over the past year.
That said, the recent volatility of the markets has prompted Encasa to examine money market products focused on capital preservation. We want providers to know that this type of investment vehicle is definitely on the horizon.
In the meantime, I recognize that your boards or local councils may have questions and concerns. I am happy to attend meetings to answer any questions that they have – and would encourage you to speak with Encasa’s investment fund advisors regarding your strategy.
Highlights from Our Newsletters
- Expert Advice, Incentives and Free Upgrades to Save Energy and Money
- Get Inspired – Energy Projects for Affordable Housing
- Alternatives to Conventional Fuels – What Are the Options?
- FCM’s Funding Targets Energy Efficiency
Managing Risky Business
- Why Accurate Building Valuations Matter
- Safe Summer Fun
- Online Location For Tenant Insurance Info Has Changed
Since my last update, we have put on several webinars. If you missed them, don’t worry. Recordings and materials from these webinars are now available on our website:
HSC is planning its roster of webinars for 2023. To receive notice the moment we announce them, subscribe to HSC’s Event Alerts.
Bringing Stakeholders Together
HSC uses its reference groups as a way of hearing about client needs and communicating to our sector partners. As with many other organizations, when the pandemic started, we needed to pivot to online meetings. Our Business Solutions team was able to adapt very well to the new reality, developing a new model for consultations. But for many of us, it was more difficult. Zoom doesn’t really allow you to look people in the eye and to feel their presence in the same way or sense when someone wants to interject; it also doesn’t let you have the types of side conversations you might have before or after a meeting or during a break. We’re happy to see a return to in-person meetings, and have had a busy Fall welcoming our stakeholders back.
All Service Manager Meeting
In October, HSC hosted a meeting with Service Managers from across Ontario. It was a great opportunity for everyone to reconnect with colleagues and meet those who were hired during the lockdown. It was also ideal for the breakout sessions that took place on HSA regulations, supportive housing and funding programs. HSC, OMSSA, AMO and the Province also presented updates.
We conducted a survey after the meeting and I was happy to see that respondents really enjoyed getting back together in person. They especially remarked on the opportunity to exchange best practices and learn from each other.
International Housing Partnership Leadership Exchange
Earlier in October, the International Housing Partnership (IHP) gathered in Toronto. IHP is a collaborative of more than 175 large non-profits from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States that collectively operate one million affordable homes and house more than 2.5 million people. Each country has a national entity. Housing Partnership Canada, for which HSC serves as secretariat, is ours.
The annual event covered a wide range of topics: climate adaptation and resilience; workforce diversity and inclusion; attracting and retaining talent in the sector; operating in the post-pandemic world; and the future of housing. Visitors also had the opportunity to go on study tours in both Toronto and Hamilton to learn about new approaches to housing.
For more information on IHP, visit http://internationalhousingpartnership.com/
HSC is Moving!
HSC will be moving to a new location! In the new year, our new address will be:
20 Dundas Street West, Ste. 1030,
The decision to move is due to several factors. The 10-year lease for our current Duncan Street location is expiring; HSC is a considerably smaller organization than it was in 2012; and the pandemic has prompted us to shift to a hybrid work model. We no longer needed as much space.
The new office is half the size of the current one and is located in a fully accessible building near Yonge/Dundas Square. The space is also highly adaptable for Board, stakeholder and staff town hall meetings. Due to its proximity to Union Station, TTC and Billy Bishop Airport, getting there will be quick and convenient for clients and staff.
We look forward to hosting our board, stakeholder groups, clients and sector partners in our new location.
Join our Board
We are currently seeking nominations for upcoming vacancies on our board. from individuals at non-profit or local housing corporations (1 position) and Service Managers (3 positions) who wish to help shape HSC’s products and services and influence our role in the housing sector.
We are looking for committed, dynamic individuals who are interested in joining the HSC Board for a four-year term, beginning April 1, 2023 and ending March 31, 2027.
In order to be considered for this position, interested individuals must submit their completed nominations form and resume to HSC by Friday November 28, 2022.
IDEA at HSC
Since its beginnings, HSC has supported the principles of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA). The spirit of these principles has been implicitly reflected in our core values and in many of our initiatives. However, up until recently, we have not had a formal corporate process for explicitly embedding IDEA principles into our programs, policies and workplace culture.
Over the last couple of years, important social movements, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, and troubling news stories surrounding the discovery of mass graves on former Residential School sites, have spurred important discussions among the public as well as among HSC staff. As an organization, we took the time to reflect on the communities HSC serves – both directly and indirectly – and what more we could be doing to listen, learn, and build more inclusive spaces.
That’s why this past spring we formed an internal working group to assist the corporation in examining our policies, procedures and workplace activities through the lens of IDEA. The first deliverable for the working group was an IDEA Workplan, which was approved by the HSC Board this past spring. Our workplan delves into a range of activities, such as corporate protocols, communications, and staff training/education.
Below are a few examples of activities we completed this past year:
- Developed a measurement framework to report progress on the IDEA Workplan to the HSC Board on an annual basis
- Offered HSC staff training on The Path – a series of learning modules focused on defining moments that have helped to shape the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada
- Completed an internal staff survey to better understand how staff view the Corporation’s efforts with regard to IDEA and to serve as a benchmark for future activities
- Engaged staff to review HSC’s corporate values to ensure that they reflect our commitment to IDEA
- Crafted communications guidelines for staff emails, corporate signatures, and for meetings and sector events, to ensure that we are demonstrating HSC’s allyship with Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ communities
- Posted a Corporate Statement on IDEA on the HSC website
Some activities that are planned or underway include:
- Offering more training opportunities to our staff, including training on unconscious bias and microaggressions
- Establishing corporate policies with regard to accessibility to ensure our public documents are meeting AODA requirements
- Including a statement about HSC’s commitment to IDEA in our job postings and procurement documents
- Ensuring staff include a growth opportunity in their 2023 performance plan related to IDEA
We are just getting started and there is undoubtedly more work and further learning to do. As we move forward, we are committed to continuing this dialogue and making any necessary adjustments along the way, as we strive to better support our staff, clients and the community housing sector as a whole.
Comings & Goings
Since our last newsletter back in the Spring, we’ve had a number of big and moves and retirements in the sector. Fern Dominelli and Jim Steele retired as CAO of Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board and CEO of Windsor-Essex Housing Corporation respectively. Both played important roles in shaping HSC. Fern helped us shape an insurance program for DSSABs, encompassing all its business lines — and will be continuing to serve as NOSDA’s Executive Director. Over his long career in housing, Jim served on HSC’s board and that of SHSC Financial (now Encasa) as well as numerous resource groups. We look forward to working with Donna Stewart and Cynthia Summers, who stepped into the CAO and CEO roles respectively and congratulate them on their new roles.
Cynthia comes to Windsor after having served at Toronto Community Housing as Commissioner of Housing Equity. We’ve also had other moves within the sector. Adam Sweedland returns to Hamilton as the CEO of CityHousing Hamilton after having served previously in roles at Toronto Community Housing and the City of Hamilton. Conversely, Tom Hunter has moved eastward, from being CEO of CityHousing Hamilton to Chief Executive at Toronto Seniors’ Housing.
Given these shifts, the compositon of our LHC Forum has changed substantially. There have also been other additions to our resource groups: Jane Hartley from Halton has joined our Service Manager Advisory Committee, which is now chaired by Beth Sorti. Rebecca Carman from Northumberland County and Nicole Piquette of the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation have joined our Insurance Reference Group. We thank Jeff Barban from the Sault Ste. Marie DSSAB, who has left this group to focus on development.
On a national level, Jeff Morrison has moved on after six and a half years at the Canadian Housing & Renewal Association and is now at the National Airlines Council of Canada. And in British Columbia, Shayne Ramsay and Dave Eddy have retired from leading BC Housing and the Vancouver Native Housing Society respectively. Both Shayne and Dave played active roles in the evolution of Housing Partnership Canada, which has come to play a vital role in enabling large housing providers across Canada to network, share best practices and bring home innovative ideas. I am especially grateful for Shayne’s tireless efforts in championing the HPC Housing Investment Corporation (HIC) and its vision of long-term, low-cost financing for non-profits across Canada. His voice, his commitment and his determination to create and improve affordable housing on a national level, will be truly missed. Not surprisingly, Shayne has ‘retired’ to more local work, as Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Development for the Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corporation, the economic development entity for Squamish First Nation. We wish him well in this next chapter of his life.