Empire Communities on Supporting Long-Term Affordability in Southern Ontario

As the Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of Empire Communities, Paul Golini Jr. is a trusted leader and recognized innovator in residential real estate. For more than 25 years, he has expertly navigated changes in the real estate market while successfully maintaining a strong focus on consumer value. Empire Communities works closely with R-LABS to share the latest best practices in development and bring innovation to the industry. In the article below, Paul discusses Empire Communities’ approach to affordable housing and how sustainable best practices offer long-term value to homeowners.

Since our inception 25 years ago, Empire Communities has seen significant changes in Southern Ontario’s residential housing market. For example, we were one of the first developers to recognize and adapt to the shift from low-rise single-family homes in the 90s to the rise of a high-rise condominium market. We’ve seen people become more comfortable with small-space living as lot sizes decrease and had a front-row seat to the evolution of the vibrant downtown that embraced work-play-live environments – an ideology that has spread from Toronto to its neighbouring urban centres. As these trends increase in popularity, it’s become clear that housing affordability influences many of the changes we’re seeing in today’s market. It’s changing the way we build, sell and buy homes.

Housing affordability is a multi-faceted issue that will require solutions from a wide range of sources. But at the end of the day, it’s about delivering better value in the residential real estate market. At Empire, our drive for innovation and affordability is to improve our internal processes and make life easier for the homeowner. We aspire to create living environments that are more comfortable, more sustainable, and more resilient. Whether it’s creating a denser form within the master-planned communities or getting more out of the existing urban communities in downtown areas, we want to give homebuyers more bang for their buck as the price of living goes up – and not just for the short-term outlook.

There is an implicit cost to buying a home, but there is also a cost to maintaining and living in a home – which is why it’s vital that we incorporate environmentally-friendly features that will support long-term affordability. In a market where we know hydroelectricity and gas will inevitably go up, an efficient home will help keep the operating costs down. Empire Communities was one of the first Energy Star Builders in Ontario to make Energy Star standard in all our homes. We are not only motivated by the environmental benefits, but we are also motivated by the fact that sustainability has a dual purpose.

Empire Communities’ Riverland Discovery Homes

By remaining focused on building a more efficient and better-quality home from a design and executional perspective, we reduce environmental impacts and save our homeowners on utility bills. Throughout this process, we have been able to streamline our construction processes and refine the end-to-end customer experience. This approach has allowed us to provide value to all of the stakeholders, including the builder, community and homeowner. A great example of this is our Riverland community in Breslau located 15 minutes outside Kitchener-Waterloo. We built three test homes where we looked at different approaches to incorporating energy efficiency technology and low carbon design with the idea of taking best practices from these homes and applying them across the board to all our communities.

While we acknowledge that initial costs are a major issue in housing affordability, it’s not the only angle we should consider. Cost-effectiveness will always be one of our goals, but we’re also looking to future-proof our communities. By assessing the longevity of the home and how homeowners can reduce everyday costs, we’re creating smarter, more thoughtful designs that truly provide value to homeowners.

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