Money, or rather the lack of it, is a popular topic in coffee shops and board rooms these days -- across Canada and around the world. Individuals and companies feel the pinch of these redefining economic times and many are pulling back financially. In contrast, our governments are spending at record levels. Instead of feeling crushed by the recession, seek out opportunity.
Governments are spending your money, so why not make sure they spend it on your province or territory, your community, your neighbourhood and on improving your life and future?
Silence and apathy got us into this economic mess in the first place, so it's time for a more proactive approach. The effort will add value to your community, neighbourhood and real estate.
Investigate which government grants and other financial windfalls are already approved for your area and which may be directed toward your corner of the country. Explore existing government programs that offer direct benefits to property owners. Seek out job-creation and business-start-up opportunities which will be natural offshoots of this monumental spending.
Real estate was a significant element in the downturn and it is poised to be important on the upswing. For instance, the national housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides real-estate-oriented opportunity on many fronts:
CMHC's External Research Program annually provides grants of up to C$25,000 to Canadian researchers from a range of backgrounds "to conduct relevant, high-quality and innovative housing research projects that address housing needs." One of this year's 17 ERP projects, or the 655 past winners, may offer an opportunity for your latest business challenge, non-profit venture or neighbourhood initiative. ERP-generated research, and much more, is available through CMHC's Canadian Housing Information Centre (CHIC) and CMHC's site: www.cmhc.ca. The winning 2009 ERP topics [ 2009 winners ] include:
- Least Cost Analysis for Canadian New Housing
- Location and Gasoline Price as Cofactors in Home Prices
- Survey of Characteristics in Homes with Elevated Radon Levels
- Investigation of the Performance and Use of Vacuum Insulated Panels in New and Existing Wood Frame Construction
- The Potential of Replotting to Improve the Sustainability of Cities in Western Canada
- A Citizen's Guide to Density: Understanding Residential Densities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe
Businesses and entrepreneurs may find opportunity lies in translating the need and interest in "green" into new products or markets. Saint John, New Brunswick-based NTI Inc., which invested almost 10 years developing its all-in-one heating and ventilation product The Matrix , has received international recognition for its achievement. Recently, BuildingGreen , publisher of Environmental Building News (EBN) and the GreenSpec Directory, announced that The Matrix, which reportedly reduces gas consumption by up to 30 per cent compared to conventional systems, is one of its "Top 10 Green Building Products" for 2009. Do you have a business idea in development or can you partner with local developers who have? CMHC and Export Canada can be useful resources in developing international markets.
Municipalities may apply for direct, low-cost loans for housing-related "shovel-ready infrastructure projects" through CMHC . Is your local government tapping into the up to C$2 billion in direct low-cost loans provided through the federal Economic Action Plan ? Approval is first come, first served, but, reportedly, CMHC "will also seek to facilitate equitable access" to the funding.
"This program will help municipalities across Canada," said Ken Seiling, Regional Chair, Regional Municipality of Waterloo. "With access to preferential lending rates, it should assist many communities in advancing their critical infrastructure projects."
Eligible projects include infrastructure related to the provision of housing services such as water, wastewater and solid waste services, power generation; local transportation infrastructure within or into residential areas such as roads, bridges and tunnels; residential sidewalks, lighting, pathways, landscaping and green space.
The Economic Action Plan also promises C$1 billion over the next two years to address the need for renovation and energy retrofits to existing social housing, C$400 million to build more seniors housing, C$75 million for new housing for persons with disabilities, and C$600 million for new housing and repairs to existing housing on-reserve and in the North. This plan is intended to stimulate the economy, create jobs and push back on recession-driven losses.
It's your tax money and it's meant to do a lot of good. Someone will receive the benefit of all that money. Are you ready to make sure the value is felt at the grassroots level in your community? Complaining after-the-fact has been the Canadian way, but isn't it time to step up and face opportunity head on? We are all in this together, after all.