Not only is Wayne Copeland the president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region, he’s also a hockey coach and die-hard Flames fan. Copeland took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with CREBNow about oil prices affecting the city, a potential merger between CHBA and the Urban Development Institute (UDI) and what Calgary’s best-kept secret has to do with Edmonton.
CN: How has the price of oil affected Calgary’s new home industry?
WC: Certainly, it has affected us. When consumers hear anything negative, they curtail their confidence in spending rather quickly. Sales in January were off from recent years, but we remain optimistic as we are also hearing that showhome traffic has maintained a decent pace.
We understand that consumers will be a little slower in making large purchases but that does not mean that they have stopped buying altogether. I do believe that it is still too early to make any assumptions of what our economy will look like for this year, but we are definitely keeping our eyes on the energy market.
CN: Should homebuyers and/or sellers be concerned?
WC: I would not use the term concerned just yet. I would use cautiously optimistic. The price of oil, along with our Canadian dollar, seems to be bouncing up and down, creating a sense of uncertainty. However, I have heard many comments regarding personal spending, most focused around why people should buy now. Some folks feel that the down market will not remain a long-term issue and buying now may be a sound investment for the future.
CN: What steps have builders taken in account of a slowdown?
WC: That is a great question. Right now, I think a lot of our industry is taking this time to re-evaluate their position on future land, current vendors and making sure they have the right office staff that they are able to keep busy for some time. Site staff and the trades and suppliers will remain fairly busy for a few more months, even if there is a downturn.
We were so busy over the past 18 months many of our members had a very hard time hiring new staff to help with building to the demand of our sales in 2014, which was a record year for us. The added workload on their employees was incredible and we must commend the efforts of everyone who put in the extra time to meet the demand while maintaining the high quality of the products produced for our consumers. We have not heard of any significant layoffs from our membership yet and I believe that this is because we are still producing products sold from a few months ago. So we are still busy working to get the job done.
[This year’s] forecast will see us produce similar numbers to 2013, which itself was a great year. So I do think that we can manage without any significant downsizing. In addition, our January permit numbers are still above the five-year average if you don’t count the record numbers in 2014, so we will remain busy into the spring.
CN: Can you provide an update on the potential merger between CHBA-Calgary Region and Urban Development Institute (UDI)? How will it affect the average homebuyer?
WC: We are still at the table negotiating the possibility. However, there really isn’t much more to update anyone on just yet. I can say that our meetings have been positive and are progressing at a reasonable pace. The goal of either association has not changed as it relates to the homebuyers – we want to build quality homes that provide choice and affordability throughout our city and surrounding areas.
CN: How is CHBA-Calgary Region working with the City to address consumers’ evolving needs for housing?
WC: We are at the table with the City of Calgary giving very valuable input on behalf of our membership. We have created a piece in partnership with UDI funded by a group of our membership called the Smarter Growth initiative. This is a series of booklets designed to educate the public on our industry. We have a website that is constantly updated with some great information (www.smartergrowth.ca). Our first booklet, “How to build a great city,” has had tremendous feedback and is now available in show homes, supplier showrooms or by request through the website.
CN: What is your favourite thing to do in Calgary on a day off?
WC: In the winter, you will find me at the hockey rink. I love to be involved with anything that is related to hockey. I play as a goalie in a local adult league. I run the Calgary Builders Hockey League. I am a coach for my 10-year-old son’s Atom Hockey team. I am a goaltender instructor, and my wife and I are die-hard Flames fans. In the summertime, you can find me with my family on a golf course, barbecuing on my deck or at McMahon Stadium watching the Stamps beat up on the other CFL teams. Family, sports and food are my favourite things.