Home Believer: Making Home Ownership Possible
Politics divides people. But for 4,000 builders in 27 local associations across Ontario, one common goal unites them politically — the dream of home ownership.
The Ontario Home Builders’ Association brings together builders, developers, renovators, suppliers, and trade professionals. Collectively, these building pros solve the problems that stand in the way of Canadian home ownership.
Led by Joe Vaccaro, the association spans all the major political parties. Joe was our guest on a recent episode of Business Optimization, and we talked all about:
- How Joe moved from politics to homebuilding (it was his wife’s doing)
- Where the idea of home believers came from
- Saving money when securing permits
- The importance of good communication during COVID
- Making decisions quickly in an association setting
The Transition From Politics to Home
Politics is fun when you’re young.
Then, it’s time to move on.
Or so Joe’s wife told him.
Back then, Joe was serving in the office of an opposition Member of Parliament. He and his wife had just gotten married and followed the wedding with a new baby.
As the son of a residential framer — when I was 15, he put me in his pickup truck one morning on my summer vacation and took me to the job site — Joe’s background included swinging a hammer, driving a pickup truck, driving a bobcat, and working out problems on a job site.
Coupled with a degree in political science from York University, it provided the perfect context for understanding the mechanics of public policy.
Then it was time to go.
Joe pivoted from politics to homebuilding, becoming CEO of The Ontario Homebuilders Association, a 4,000-member professional network that advocates for the dream of Canadian home ownership.
It’s not all that different from Joe’s life as the eldest child of immigrant parents. Or cutting through the red tape of government regulations.
All of it is about solving problems.
The Ontario Homebuilders Association is composed of diverse members with different perspectives and a common mission.
Several years ago, the group worked in a political environment that Joe describes as “entrepreneurial.” The whole discussion around home ownership and affordability kept getting hijacked with well-intentioned suggestions to “try this” and “try that.”
Seeking to solve problems and do what’s fair, Joe led the group to consider a common element they could all agree to. Together, they devised the theme “Believer” and came up with a pledge card.
The first card was pretty straightforward:
I believe in the great Canadian dream of homeownership. I believe that we should be able to find homes we can afford in communities where we can live, work and play. I believe that the dream of homeownership is slipping out of reach for many Ontarians. As a home believer, I will support more homes. More so as a home believer, I will support more housing choice and supply across Ontario to help us all achieve the great Canadian dream of homeownership.
The association members signed it. The members of parliament signed it. Candidates for office signed it. In all, 100 candidates from the three major parties and several minor ones took the pledge.
Communicating During COVID-19
No pledge, however, would knock out COVID.
Early on, it became clear that to keep job sites open during COVID, sanitation would have to take top priority.
The solution wasn’t complicated — handwashing stations at all the construction sites did the trick.
But safety required more than sanitation. It also meant communication.
Homeowners needed to know what was going on at the construction or renovation site. A simple text message helped ensure that everyone knew what needed cleaning, when people would be around, and what everyone was doing to keep each other safe.
As a Seinfeld fan, Joe takes the “Festivus approach” to decision making. Here’s how it works:.
First, put up the aluminum pole. In this case, put the issue on the table, stripped down to the bare minimum. Give everyone a chance to look at it and then digest it like a meal.
Next, there’s the airing of grievances. The key here is giving people an opportunity to express their concerns. Even — no, especially — the emotionally based, irrational, baloney concerns. Air your grievances, say what’s on your mind, express yourself.
Now we get down to the feats of strength. Wrestle your issue. Pin down the decision. You work your way through the process so that the end result is a decision you’ve made as a group after looking at the issue.
Becoming the Ultimate Problem Solver
Take a look around for your local homebuilding association. If you’re a member in the industry, Joe says you are welcome to join one of the local associations. And if you’re not, by all means take a moment to explore the whole Believer campaign. Housing choice, affordability, and supply in communities across Ontario is key for the association.
And if you’re thinking of relocating, Ontario is a great place to live. The province is attracting millions of new people every single decade. Experts project that two million more people will join Ontario in the next 10 years.
That kind of growth means housing is important. The association’s job is to be part of the solution to ongoing housing issues.
Its goal is to be a problem solver.