Better together: Investing in solutions to create affordable housing

I joined Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in the summer of 2015, almost four years ago, excited to support the housing agency’s role in serving Canadians.

I joined Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in the summer of 2015, almost four years ago, excited to support the housing agency’s role in serving Canadians. Today, I am privileged to lead a team of talented lawyers who directly impact Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy and the work CMHC is doing to achieve our aspirational goal to eliminate housing need. Our day-to-day advice and work is rooted in a constant raison d’etre: “By 2030, everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford that meets their needs.”

What our team does on a daily basis may appear to be straightforward to any lawyer who has been involved with financing and funding arrangements. In short, we are responsible for providing legal advice to CMHC in its direct lending and other funding initiatives that CMHC provides in support of affordable housing. We all contribute in different ways, but for me, the most exciting aspect of the opportunity has been in working together with the business lines at CMHC to think differently and provide alternative solutions to CMHC’s clients.

Every innovative structuring that creates more efficiency or saves costs can impact the borrower’s bottom line and help increase affordability. It is exciting and challenging because we need to reconsider the rationale behind the traditional lending tools and consider alternatives to enable the business lines to achieve its objectives. We also need to think creatively but within the confines of our enabling legislation, which provides different powers and constraints than traditional lenders face.

Our team has supported in the design and delivery of the Rental Construction Financing initiative that offers fixed-rate construction financing, which is truly unique in the market. This initiative has grown to a $13.75-billion, 10-year initiative intended to create supply in the rental housing market from a $2.5-billion initiative announced in the 2016 federal budget.

We have also supported the design and delivery of CMHC’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, which has funded a series of innovative projects. One of the most recent investments was in support of a new financing model through HPC Housing Investment Corporation, known as HI-C. HI-C recently announced the closing of $33 million in private placement funding through this sector-based financing vehicle offering 30-year fixed funding.

Each of these initiatives and projects prompts us to ask our business lines to tell us more about their goals and risk appetite. Then it is up to us to deliver a series of options to enable them to achieve these goals. It leads to collaborative brainstorming and dialogue that provides solutions and establishes trust. This trust further fosters better communication and partnerships with the business lines, as we work to get Canadians the homes that meet their needs. It’s a privilege to give advice to a Canadian institution and make a difference to the day-to-day lives of Canadians. It’s a greater privilege to get to do that side by side with my business line colleagues and enable them to reach their goals of getting Canadians in homes.

Tiffany Murray is a director of legal services at CMHC in Ottawa, where she currently leads a team of five lawyers. Prior to joining CMHC, Murray practised financial services law at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

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