Solving Canada’s Affordable Housing Crisis: A Saskatchewan Builder’s Approach

Innovative Residential

This year, 2018, housing prices in Canada reached an all-time high. According to Business Insider’s article, the typical Canadian home has never been so expensive, home ownership now costs Canadians a whopping $652,400 on average. But in Saskatoon, one innovative builder is endeavouring to make a difference for hard-working families.
~
Alex Miller co-founded Innovative Residential in 2006 after graduating from university with an engineering degree, researching real estate, and feeling inspired to get into business for himself in a way that would positively impact his community.

“Ever since I was young I’ve always wanted to be in business, and I remember buying my first home and all the challenges with it. I realized that I could do more and I could give back by helping others in home ownership,” he says.

Innovative Residential builds attractive, well-crafted, quality entry-level housing in the $200,000s – attainable for Saskatchewan individuals and families earning moderate household incomes of less than $70,000 per year. “We work with all the levels of government and provide different financing programs that help people get into home ownership,” Miller remarks.

Every Canadian homeowner can recall the struggle of getting pre-approved for a mortgage as a first-time buyer. Innovative Residential takes a unique approach to its customer service, working with home buyers to make sure they have all the information they need to maximize their chances of a mortgage approval, including helping them discover public down payment programs or other options based on their needs.

But don’t be fooled by lower price points; Innovative Residential never skimps on quality. All homes are constructed with sustainability at the forefront, and feature ENERGY STAR® certified appliances, windows, and doors. Stainless steel appliances and maple cabinetry are standards, not upgrades.

It sounds unconventional, but the customer-centric approach of this multi-award winning builder aligns perfectly with its purpose. Innovative Residential’s core values are doing everything with integrity, never giving up, challenging the status quo, committing to higher standards, continuously improving through optimization and innovation, and working hard while having fun.

“We have a commitment to being socially, environmentally, and financially responsible. That fits with our purpose, who we are, and our goal of where we’re trying to get to,” says Miller.

So how does this fresh, new eco-friendly builder manage to do it all?

Through a modern method of using a modular, factory-made build instead of traditional onsite construction. Every home Innovative Residential builds is done via pre-engineered construction – a far superior method of construction for a variety of reasons.

Modular construction results in a 50 percent reduction in build time, 50 percent reduction in carbon footprint, and from a quality standpoint, there are over 50 times more documented inspections than with a traditionally constructed home. This means that home buyers get to move into a safer, more energy-efficient home all the sooner.

As Innovative Residential’s website states: “We aren’t your average affordable housing provider. We’re redefining the starter home, making a case for multi-family condo communities, and we refuse to stick-build to the status quo.”

When asked why being green is such a critical value at Innovative Residential, Miller explains that it’s likely his engineering background that led to his commitment to higher standards and continuous improvement. “It’s just the right thing to do. Housing is an investment. They say that it is the largest investment that most people will ever make. Energy efficiency is very important for that investment, and also for the wellbeing of homebuyers,” he adds.

Moreover, the national trend is moving in that direction. Earlier this year, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources pledged a $182 million-dollar investment to increase energy efficiency in our homes in order to curb climate change and improve building standards. Adopting sustainable practices and construction methods is an investment that pays off long-term, particularly for businesses who strive to remain on the leading edge.

Innovative Residential has been partnered with HOLMES Approved Homes™ since 2012, after being approached by the Mike Holmes Group. Mike Holmes is a well-known contractor, investor, and philanthropist, known for his TV series where he rescues Torontonian homeowners from renovation nightmares.

“We’re a Mike Holmes partner and he has talked about how he likes to build with us because we go above and beyond industry standards. I’ve also been a part of the Home Builders’ Association for eight years and I believe in challenging the norm and committing to higher standards. Anything I can do to elevate the industry and increase energy efficiency does that,” Miller tells us.

Innovative Residential is a small business that employs a team of 20 staff, but provides hundreds of jobs and its impact has been huge in the Saskatchewan housing market. The business has already helped over 1,200 families enter into home ownership, and was listed by Profit Guide as among Canada’s fastest growing construction companies.

By communicating and sharing its inspirational company values and purpose, Innovative Residential has been able to bring in the right team members and partners to the business. “If we walk the path of the values that I’ve just shared – that we have a commitment to higher standards, never give up, do everything with integrity, and work hard and have fun – when we communicate that on our social media, our hiring campaigns or at our community barbeques and social interactions… that lends itself very well to attracting those who align with those goals,” shares Miller.

Now known provincially as the role model for attainable housing in Saskatchewan, Miller is excited to commence what he calls “the big, hairy, audacious goal of expanding into the prairies, to ultimately become the role model for attainable housing across Canada.”

The residential construction industry is ripe for such a builder to come along and help first-time buyers achieve home ownership, as The Globe and Mail has recently reported that the affordable housing crisis affects one in five renters nationwide. Starting with the prairies is a responsible move, but the demand extends across all provinces and territories.

“We are actively working outside of Saskatchewan right now in Alberta and Manitoba, and we are going to play in that sandbox for a bit first. We are very connected to the Home Builders’ Association, and their head office is in Ottawa. We’ve had a lot of chats with individuals out there in Ontario, and if you look at the customers that we serve and the demographic, there is a strong need for it all across Canada,” Miller states.

Vancouver, British Columbia, and Toronto, Ontario are notorious for their outrageous housing markets. In Toronto in particular, it has been reported that as of spring, the average home price was listed at just over a million dollars, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. This poses a particular challenge for young couples and those just entering the housing market, because a Canadian millennial, with a median income of $38,148, has few options – if any – in such a market.

“We’re trying to grow as fast as we can,” Miller emphasizes. “It’s such an instrumental part of people’s livelihoods, career paths, and building the roots for their own families. A home is a strong investment and you want to make sure that you can get into it, start moving up, and sleep at night knowing that you have a well-built, quality home that you can be proud of. I’m excited to grow because we are re-engineering the home building industry and I am excited to be a part of that.”

Of course, it is a task that Innovative Residential cannot undertake on its own.

“We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for the strong support of all of our key partners. We are always looking to partner and grow our business with like-minded individuals in different businesses. As we continue to expand, we are going to continue to grow our network and we look forward to that opportunity,” says Miller.

Those interested in partnership or learning more about Innovative Residential are welcome to visit the company’s website at https://innovativeresidential.ca.

September 17, 2019, 7:16 AM EDT