BILD celebrates 100 years of challenges and change in the GTA

By Dave Wilkes

Wed., April 21, 2021


April marks the start of the 100th anniversary year of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), as the successor of the Toronto Home Builders’ Association and Urban Development Institute. The association that was to become BILD came into being on April 5, 1921, when five Toronto builders gathered at 26 Adelaide St. West. Their objective that day was to create an association for Toronto’s home builders, to advocate for the industry and its customers, establish standards and best practices, and enhance the industry and the products it offers to the public.

Later this month, in partnership with the Toronto Star, we will be pleased to bring readers an 11-week retrospective, published once per week, tracing decade by decade the development of the Greater Toronto Area, and highlighting the people, families, companies and policy decisions that built the region we call home.

As we did research for this special project, it became clear that the success of our region and the quality of life enjoyed by its residents depend on a continual balance of factors that have been with us since the 1920s and before.

The first is the linkage of population growth with development and quality of life. In the last 100 years, the population of our region has grown more than seven-fold—it has doubled in the last 40 years alone. While more than half of this growth is due to international immigration, we also need to take into account the impact of the great rural-to-urban migration that occurred throughout Canada from the 1940s on, and the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s and its echo generation. Massive expansion and development have been necessary to ensure this growing population has enough transportation networks, schools, hospitals, and places to work, shop and live.

Which brings us to the second important set of factors—housing supply and housing affordability. These have been recurring themes in the region, as a scan of news articles over the decades reveals. A sustained housing shortage in the 1930s and early 1940s paved the way for the housing boom of the 1950s. Over the decades, periodic downturns in housing starts due to economic conditions have led to housing shortages, resulting in price escalation. The housing shortages we are experiencing now, on the other hand, cannot be blamed on economic conditions. They are entirely the result of policy decisions made as attempts to manage and direct growth.

In response to the twin challenges of housing supply and affordability, residents have usually adapted. Starting in the 1950s, they did so by moving to the suburbs where they could find more housing choices at prices the average person could afford. More recently, residents have adapted by choosing smaller, denser housing options, such as stacked townhomes and condominium apartments in urban areas or surrounding major transit stations.

Residents of the GTA have much to be proud of. Over the past century, we have built a unique and diverse region comprised of vibrant communities, towns and cities. The GTA is recognized as one of the great places in the world to call home, and the promise of the future is strong.

We at BILD took great pleasure in producing our 11-week tribute to the GTA and its building and development. I hope you will read and enjoy our weekly special sections in the Toronto Star, starting at the end of April.