Building a Community with BILD Wood Buffalo
BILDing a better future for Wood Buffalo, one house at a time is the goal of BILD Wood Buffalo. To BILD, they aren’t just building houses, they are building a whole community, and so they have made exciting new partnerships. They would like the world to know that Wood Buffalo is a family friendly region to live in, with enough infrastructure, businesses, and amenities for the residents to enjoy. BILD, and its community partners will attract new citizens to the area to live, work and play in the region so that it will continue to grow at a healthy, sustainable rate long into the future.
Although BILD is a new name in the community, many people would recognize it under its’ original names, the Wood Buffalo Builder’s Association, and then the Urban Development Initiative (UDI). The Wood Buffalo Builder’s Association incorporated as a society in 1997. As the city grew, so did the organization, and in 2006 the Wood Buffalo Builder’s Association amalgamated with the provincial organization, “UDI”, to become UDI Wood Buffalo. As UDI Wood Buffalo, the goal was to be the voice of the building and development both provincially and locally. In 2017, UDI joined with province’s Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) to become the unifying the voice of land development, home building and professional renovation industry in the province and Canada. This exciting new amalgamation became BILD, with 36,000 members nationwide, and trademarks in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and across Canada.
BILD Wood Buffalo is a registered non-profit which works with local organizations and companies to achieve their ultimate goal of a better community for all. The committee members are individuals employed in the building and construction industries eager to build quality houses, buildings and subdivisions so that people will call the Wood Buffalo region their home. Since all of these committee members have lived in Fort McMurray and worked in the building industry a long time, they understand the current needs of the community. The theory behind BILD is that if you build a good quality, affordable home for a family, they will move in, buy furniture, decorations and accessories locally it will stimulate the economy. The ripple effect will continue into more businesses, amenities and services benefitting the whole community, so it is not as reliant on one industry.
Since UDI Wood Buffalo joined the much larger BILD Alberta organization a year ago, they have enjoyed the increased representation to work with all levels of government to achieve their goals. The local president, Gilles Huizinga is very excited that he is starting to see results for all of the work that the BILD organization has been putting into meeting with politicians. Two recent successes are discussions about the Fly in Fly Out program (FIFO) locally, and the federal changes to the First-Time Home Buyers Incentive. The First-Time Home Buyers Incentive allows first time home buyer to borrow up to ten percent of the down payment, making home ownership more achievable. These changes both mean that more people will be looking to purchase houses locally, and be able to call Fort McMurray home.
Formerly one of the most expensive communities, Fort McMurray has now become one of the most affordable communities in Alberta. This has come about because people have reasonable incomes and housing prices are down. To counter the stigma that Fort McMurray is expensive, BILD is working to get the word out that this is an excellent community to live in. BILD is working with the RMWB social profits, oil companies and the Chamber of Commerce to put together a program to stabilize the market in Fort McMurray for the future. In order to understand what is needed in the community long term, they are currently doing a market analysis. With the current rebuild, the market analysis needs to be done in a way that only includes a natural growth, and does not include the wildfire construction boom.
Although the companies involved with BILD were involved in the rebuild, they mostly are looking toward future developments. The current market is suffering due to the economic downturn. Before the last downturn there was a land shortage, which is no longer an issue. There finally exists land for sustaining growth. Several houses have not been rebuilt since the fire and many of these lots are now for sale. The availability of land allows the building industry to properly plan, providing a starting place for future developments.
As a first step in reaching out to the community, the board is very excited to host their first event as BILD Wood Buffalo. An invitation-only Wine and Cheese Reception is being held in April to celebrate the new organization, and let their partners know about the changes that are in hand. This ‘coming out’ event is to show that thier industry has grown with the community, and is now ready to take on the next challenge; being a major representative of their industries in Wood Buffalo.
In the words of president Gilles Huizinga, “Our Industry, our organization, is working with all those other organizations that I have mentioned, the Chamber, the real estate board, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, with OSCA with the oil industry in to build a win-win for them, and for Fort McMurray. And if we can do that, then we will be successful. It has to be win-win all around.