Back in mid-March, as COVID-19 emerged as an increasing concern to our sector, HSC started to work our sector partners and our province-wide advisory committees towards facilitating discussions and compiling helpful resources. These resources were posted on our website as they became available.
The materials remain relevant and are updated when new resources become available, so I would encourage you to visit this page if you are looking at ways to improve your COVID response and prepare for any future outbreaks.
|View COVID-19 Resources|
A clear and simple contingency plan will help your staff better manage vital tasks in difficult times, accelerate and organize your response, reduce damage and create a more resilient community.
Brian Laur will walk you through our Contingency Plan Template and Planning Guide, helping your organization develop a plan that reflects the unique needs of your community.
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Back in January 2019, HSC officially launched its Business Solutions practice. We created a dedicated group to meet the increasing demand for HSC’s unique housing expertise we saw over time. Based on these earlier experiences we also opted to focus on practical, actionable projects where we could help clients make an immediate impact.
Response has been tremendous. In spite of the COVID-19 situation, the team remains busy on a range of projects for clients across Ontario – because the work of housing has continued uninterrupted.
The types of projects Service Managers and housing providers are doing offer some interesting insights into what’s happening across the Province and sector trends. So I took a moment to interview HSC’s Managing Director of the Business Solutions unit, Judy Lightbound.
It’s been about a year and a half since the launch of HSC Business Solutions. Can you tell us a bit about your clients and the types of projects they’ve asked for help on?
The focus both this year and last is really on planning. Housing and Homelessness Plans, Housing Master Plans, and Asset Management Plans have been a large part of our work. But we’ve also done a range of smaller, more focused projects for Service Managers — policy reviews; collecting and summarizing legal agreements and polices across the Province; writing RFP scopes and reviewing draft Co-Investment Fund applications. We’ve also facilitated a lot of discussions. In 2019 alone, we facilitated 23 sessions with over 400 participants! It has been so much fun jumping into so many different types of projects.
Are you noticing any broad trends in the sector? How are your clients responding to them?
We are seeing two big focuses for 2020/2021 and are excited to be working on both. First, Service Managers and their housing operations are positioning themselves for growth and direct development. As a result, they are reviewing governance and operational structures and seeking to understand the levers to project viability that are necessary for them and their area housing providers — so they can take on new development, large-scale regeneration and address the realities of the post-EOA/M [end of operating agreements/mortgages] operating environment.
The second is related; it’s building the capacity of the smaller non-profits and co-ops so they are prepared for the future. Service Managers and housing providers are having conversations about the changing face of community housing and how they can work together to create a new operating environment that supports the objectives of both. This is becoming increasingly important as providers reach EOA/M and Service Managers look to build new partnership relationships.
What types of projects are you anticipating you’ll be working on in the next year?
We are already seeing that a focus on per building asset management planning. By that I mean identifying the best path forward for each building – investment, divestment or some other path. We have already started to do this work with some Service Managers but we expect this is only going to increase. Because of our technical knowledge and past work with providers, we are well-positioned to undertake this analysis. We’ve also devised a fairly comprehensive approach that gives both Service Managers and housing provider boards the tools they need to understand the balance between investing in capital repairs and investing in new development/regeneration. The work includes financial and site analysis, board engagement, and pre-development work. This is the future and we are ready to take it on.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on? Can you tell us a bit about the assignment?
We have been fortunate to work on a number of really interesting projects. I can’t choose a favourite! That said, what I’m enjoying the most is being able to help on a number of projects for an individual Service Manager — building on things we’ve created together. We have been fortunate to work with some Service Managers on their broad, strategic plans (housing and homelessness plans, asset management plans, master plans) and then work with them to implement components of those plans. It is a real privilege to be able to be part of so many aspects of the Service Manager housing role and to really feel like we are making a difference in helping them meet their objectives.
|Contact Judy Lightbound||Find out more about HSC Business Solutions|
Update on Group Insurance Renewals and the Impacts of COVID
News reports indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has extended the ‘hard market’ for insurance. A hard market is one where demand for insurance outstrips supply and where rates rise. Typically this is because underwriters are recouping losses from previous years.
This was certainly the case last year. This year, we expect that COVID will play a factor in premium negotiations by underwriters – that’s because losses will be broadly felt by the insurance industry because of the financial impacts on business, large and small, local and global. We also anticipate that the liability market will be tougher – in the broader housing sector, we are seeing class-action lawsuits against long-term care homes for failing to protect residents.
We are expecting rate increases but are hoping that our combined efforts on managing risk and our relationships with underwriters will help us again. In addition, we are also working towards reducing the amount of time it requires to complete the paperwork — by simplifying our renewal process for renewing clients. We will have more information in our next issue of Managing Risky Business. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
New Service Provider for Common Room Insurance = Lower Costs & Better Coverage
In early June, HSC’s Common Room Insurance Program switched service providers. Given the COVID-19 situation, it’s unlikely anyone will use this insurance now. But the switch means lower rates, better coverage and wider possibilities for usage. We will include a longer update on this in the next Managing Risky Business.
Natural Gas Renewals & COVID
Over the past few years, HSC has been proud to offer gas prices that are the lowest among comparable group programs. In 2019, we helped providers further control their total gas costs by introducing transportation hedging. We hope to continue our good track record.
As with our insurance program, COVID-19 catapulted the natural gas market into a period of volatility. Interestingly, while oil and gasoline prices have declined, due to a combination of reduced demand and an international price war, natural gas consumption actually increased in early Spring in the United States, as Forbes reports. In addition, supply declined due to the link between the extraction of oil and gas.
We are already seeing less volatility. We are expecting the market to further settle and so in consultation with our Energy Services Stakeholder Advisory Committee we will be sending options to renewing clients in the early summer. Have questions? Contact email@example.com
New Grants & Loans for Sustainable Affordable Housing
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently announced a Sustainable Affordable Housing program as part of their Green Municipal Fund. This financing program supports measures to retrofit existing affordable housing units, or construct energy efficient new builds that emit lower GHG emissions. It covers up to 20% of total eligible project costs up to a maximum combined financing of $10M. The program is open to:
For more details, visit the program page on the FCM website.
|Find out more about the Sustainable Affordable Housing Program|
Electricity Relief During COVID-19
In our last issue of Energy Matters, we included a story on the initiatives the provincial government has introduced to provide immediate rate relief. For details, click here.
AssetPlanner: The More, The Merrier
We are pleased that the City of Toronto is now using the AssetPlanner software. They join 22 Service Managers using the software – who are tracking more than 60,000 units and getting a better picture on future capital priorities. By bringing on Toronto units, we will also have a more robust view on the state of housing in Ontario.
|More about AssetPlanner|
HSC’s Technical Services team continues to move forward with its projects performing site visits to support capital plans and building condition audits. In addition, the team is providing project management services for a new build by Bruce County Housing Corporation in Kincardine. In spite of COVID-19, the project is progressing nicely:
|More about Technical Services|
Proposed Change to the Canadian Equity Fund
This past April, Encasa announced a proposal to change the investment objective of its Canadian Equity Fund (CEF). The proposed change would allow Encasa more flexibility to better fulfill its Responsible Investing (RI) mandate.
The current investment objective of this Fund is to seek long-term capital growth by investing primarily in a diversified portfolio consisting of equity securities of companies located in Canada. The Fund now invests in a minimum of 60% Canadian securities and a maximum of 40% global securities (defined as companies located outside Canada). The proposed change would increase exposure to global securities that best meet Encasa’s RI mandate. Consequently, there would be a shift in the allocation of the Fund to a maximum of 70% global securities and a minimum of 30% Canadian securities.
Why It Makes Sense:
The proposed change would enable Encasa to better fulfill its RI mandate for two key reasons:
By enabling Encasa to choose from a larger stock of global securities that meet the RI criteria, we believe this change would maximize returns and benefit Unitholders in the short and longer term. We recommend that Unitholders vote FOR the change.
A detailed informational package was mailed to Unitholders in late May and meeting materials are also available on the Encasa website.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Updates from Encasa
In March and April, Encasa published information relating to the financial markets and COVID-19:
In early June, HSC’s Encasa Advisory Committee met for the first time. The advisory committee comprises of a cross-section of Ontario providers – both large and small, urban and rural. Its goal is to offer insight and guidance on how the program can better meet the needs of providers and Service Managers as an investment vehicle for capital reserves.
HPC Housing Investment Corporation Gets A New Endorsement
In late April, we were pleased that the Housing Investment Corporation (HIC) figured in the submission of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s submission to the federal and provincial ministers of finance related to Municipal Government Services and Ontario and Canada’s Economic Recovery. In the part of the submission on investing in affordable housing capital projects and new development, AMO articulates its support of a provincial guarantee of HIC mortgages, which would improve the profile of HIC in the capital markets and drive down financing costs for providers. HIC estimates that such a guarantee would result in interest savings of up to $120 million for the Ontario sector for a $500 million guaranteed program with 40-year mortgage terms.
HIC continues to work towards its second round of financing. In the meantime if you are a provider that has development ambitions, I encourage you to contact HIC to start discussing your project.
The Community Housing Transformation Centre Needs Your Help!
The Community Housing Transformation Centre recently launched its Indigenous Housing Databases Project. To build the database, they are looking for help: volunteer grant proposal reviewers; resources tailored to Indigenous & Indigenous-serving service providers and mapping out the organizations themselves.
For more information, contact Louise Atkins (principal project consultant) at email@example.com
Since my last update, we continued our hands-on work in the sector:
|CEO & COO Meetings & Presentations
||Insurance & Risk Management
||Asset Management & Renewal
Finally, like many other organizations, most HSC staff have been working at home since the provincial and municipal directives in mid-March. Since then, we welcomed Shikha Sehgal back from parental leave and offered congratulations to Clinton Reid on the birth of his son. To close this newsletter, I thought I’d share a picture of a recent HSC staff meeting. Here we are doing a fun icebreaker: