The new chairman of BILD has a big agenda and the qualities to complete the task.
Sometimes, it’s hard not to like someone, and Steve Deveaux is certainly one of those special people. Although this “interview” was conducted over email because Deveaux was on holidays in France with his family, his personality — intelligent and witty with a skill at a good turn of phrase — came through.
Trained as an urban planner, Deveaux has toiled in the development industry for 15 years, most currently as the vice president of land development with Tribute Communities.
However, our discussion was mostly about his new role as chairman of the board for the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), a two-year term in which he has taken on three mandates: the provincial greenbelt and growth plan; crumbling infrastructure; and the economy as it relates to the building industry.
As far as challenges go, these are indeed huge, but Deveaux’s energy and commitment — and his bearded sense of humour — will certainly help him move forward with confidence.
I am also a member of BILD’s board of directors, and have gotten to know Deveaux over the board table and beyond and he’s passionate about creating the very best communities for homebuyers in the GTA. That’s a very special quality.
HOMES Magazine: First, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you get your start and how long have you been in the industry?
Steve Deveaux: My education is in urban planning; I did my undergrad work at the University of Toronto and my Master’s degree at Dalhousie in Halifax.
I got into planning because I wanted to be Paul Bedford (the former chief planner of the City of Toronto). He was a very passionate speaker and I appreciated his approach to planning for a city that was meant to accommodate significant change and growth. And he had a beard.
So, I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I am currently the vice president of land development with Tribute Communities. For the past nine years, I’ve been proud to be in charge of Tribute’s highrise and midrise development approvals, working very closely with government staff and politicians. Prior to that I worked for Monarch Corporation in the highrise division and before that I was a city planner with the City of Toronto.
At BILD, I’m the current chairman of the board of directors and I’ve been active at BILD for the last six years.
In 2009, I co-chaired the Toronto Chapter of BILD with Leona Savoie (of Hullmark Developments) and we worked very hard during those years to build the trust of city staff and politicians so that they would reach out to us early and often when major policy changes were on the horizon. I continued building that relationship over the last two years as first vice chair of BILD under past chair Steve Upton (Tridel), and it is even more important in my role as chair now.
HM: You’ve come into your two-year term as chair of BILD with three mandates: the provincial greenbelt and growth plan, crumbling infrastructure, and the economy as it relates to the building industry. Those are big subjects with a lot of meat to them. Have you made any progress?
SD: With the help of the board of directors, our volunteer chapter chairs and numerous involved members, we are off to a great start. Our members have been extremely engaged in the growth management conversation.
Following the lead of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), members attended consultation meetings held by the provincial government as part of its coordinated review of the Growth Plan, the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment Plans. We helped OHBA prepare a comprehensive submission outlining the challenges of implementing these plans over the last decade and opportunities to improve them.
It seems as though we’re at Queens Park every other day participating in working groups with other stakeholders, focused on how to make these changes work for our industry. I think our voice is being heard.
On infrastructure, we showed support for the spring announcement of provincial funding for much-needed municipal transit projects. However, that is only one type of infrastructure needed in the GTA. We need new pipes in the ground, as well as roads and water infrastructure so we can turn investment-ready communities into neighbourhoods where people live, work and play. BILD continues to advocate for fair development charges and government fees related to new infrastructure because we believe the industry and new homebuyers are already paying their fair share.
My third area of focus relates to federal monetary policy and we have had some successful meetings with chief economists and decision makers that are making an impact. For example, a recent TD Economic report spoke to a strong housing market that is challenged by rising prices, reduced choice and a growing need for infrastructure. We invited Derek Burleton, vice president and deputy chief economist at TD Group to be one of our expert speakers at our annual Economic Outlook Breakfast on October 15.
HM: With over 100,000 people moving into the GTA every year, what do you think are the biggest challenges for creating safe and livable cities?
SD: Well, we know that up to 100,000 people and 50,000 jobs choose the GTA as their home every single year and our industry is planning, designing, engineering and building the complete communities where people want to live, work and play. We are challenged by the rising cost to do so; with about one-fifth of the cost of a new home going to government fees and charges, it is increasingly difficult for first-time buyers, millennials and others to save a down payment and get into the market.
BILD members are working with our government partners across the GTA and at the provincial level with the help of the OHBA to keep these fees fair and reasonable. We believe the new homebuyer is paying their fair share for much-needed infrastructure like transit, which is another challenge we all face, and if implemented, the regional transit and transportation plan for the GTA and beyond could be transformational in creating more livable cities.
Apart from ever-rising costs, the other major challenge is getting these servicing projects off the ground. Approval processes are becoming so complex that communities are having a hard time getting started.
HM: If you had the power, how would you fix the GTA’s gridlock problems?
SD: There’s so much here. I would use federally collected tax dollars, which are supposed to be re-directed to the provinces and their municipalities, to fund the entire Metrolinx Big Move. It is the first plan to cross borders and serve those who need it the most and, in the discussion of who is going to pay for it, I believe the federal government needs to come to the table and support the nation’s largest and most competitive city-region before we risk losing that title.
I would also streamline the approval process for major infrastructure projects so that we can start to grow these complete communities in a more timely fashion, which will give people more choice to live and work in the same place.
HM: Tribute has a reputation for creating complete communities with a high degree of after-sales service and architectural excellent. But Tribute stands out because of its commitment to universal design, building homes and condos fully accessible for the disabled. What was the philosophy behind the decision to be a leader in accessible housing?
SD: The best day for us at Tribute is when a repeat customer comes to one of our sales offices looking to purchase their next home with us. It tells us that we’re doing things right. We build everything from 400-square-foot condos to 5,000-square-foot homes; there are a variety of needs and tastes out there, and we want to be able to provide something for everyone.
We have an amazing team of people at Tribute that works with the purchaser to try and accommodate their every need. In providing practical and elegant solutions to specific accessibility needs of the purchaser, we are delivering on our mission to deliver exceptional customer service.
HM: What has made you the proudest?
SD: I am ever so proud of the high level of engagement we get out of BILD members. Whether it’s volunteering their time on important government files, or participating in one of our many charitable events, I am always amazed at how willing our membership is to donate their time to everything that BILD stands for. Sniff.
HM: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
SD: The biggest challenge is keeping on top of all of the things going on. Thankfully, we have an amazing team at BILD and a highly engaged volunteer base to ensure our voices are being heard.
HM: What is your pet peeve?
SD: My biggest pet peeve is the perception in some media and government circles that the building and development industries are not paying their fair share of growth-related costs. The conversation rarely develops beyond rhetoric and anecdote. Drives me crazy. Crazy.
HM: What do you do for fun?
SD: Fun for me is spending time with my wife and three kids. My kids are pretty high energy, so it’s never a dull moment. We have a blast.
Tribute Communities Portfolio
• Landscapes, Brampton
• Stonemanor Woods, Barrie
• Canterbury Towns, Toronto
• Gates of Nobleton, Nobleton
• U.C., Oshawa
• Park Ridge, Oshawa
• The College, Toronto
• Residences at RCMI, Toronto
• Varley, Unionville