Thoughts and life updates
I write this newsletter to share things that I’m working on and thinking about. A little about me.
I own and manage an agency in Toronto called August. We design and build digital products. We spend about 80% of our time on client work and the balance on internal projects. I also invest in real estate with my two brothers.
Late last year, Ontario’s provincial government formed the Housing Affordability Task Force to “explore measures to address housing affordability, including increasing the supply of market housing, reducing red tape and accelerating timelines, and supporting economic recovery and job creation”.
Earlier this month, the task force released its report. It includes 55 recommendations for boosting housing supply in the province.
The first recommendation is that the Province set a goal of building 1.5 million new homes in ten years. For context, we’ve seen 670,000 housing completions over the last ten years.
The recommendations are all great and would take us a long way toward solving the housing crisis if implemented. Now we’ll need to see if and how quickly they get implemented.
The task force has done its job. It’s now the Province’s turn to do theirs.
I’ve put together a simple website to track all recommendations that I can update as progress is made: housingprogress.com. Steve Bannon had his whiteboard. Those of us who want to see these recommendations implemented now have this website.
If I were advising the government, I’d push for the appointment of one person in charge of implementing every one of these recommendations within the first year following the election—and most within the first 100 days.
That person should be highly competent, somewhat disagreeable, and maximally empowered to bulldoze through all bureaucratic and political obstacles. Their success should be measured by the number of checkmarks I add to my website. No excuses, just an x/55 scoring.
Significant structural reform benefits from speedy and bullheaded execution. More often than not, it gets stalled or significantly diluted. It’s disruptive, and there’s a large anti-disruption constituency (including among the public service).
We need a disruptor.
August is doing well. We’ve hired a couple of great new full stack developers and probably now need a project coordinator to support our project manager.
I’d like to start responding to RFPs next—and government RFPs specifically. Most of our work to date has come to us organically. If our current workload levels continue, we might bring on a dedicated proposal writer.
Know someone I should talk to?
Buildstack has hit a bit of a snag. As we continue to add data, I’m seeing the limitations of building on Notion.
First, you can’t tag pages, so you can’t implement any good search or filtering functionality. That makes for a poor discovery and navigation user experience.
Second, you can’t pull insights from the data, as we’re not building a true database. As an example, we can’t throw up a chart showing who the top five most used formwork contractors of 2021 were, or anything else along those lines. It’s all too manual.
We’re going to take a few steps back and rebuild this thing properly to then take many more steps forward.
We’re still waiting on our COA hearing date for FH1*.
The more I think about this project, the more I like its scale. If the provincial government opens up more of the city to this sort of missing middle development, as has been recommended, I’d like to do much more of it.
Getting to a point where we’re starting 2-4 per year would be great medium term goal.
We’re just about to wrap up our last diligence step for MR1**. That is, the Phase 2 ESA. We’re also expecting a term sheet from our lender this week.
If all goes well, we’ll be waiving conditions this month and closing some time in April. And then we’re off to the races. Next step: a Zoning Bylaw Amendment.
*Forever Hold 1. A proposed four-storey multiunit rental building in Toronto’s west end that we plan on holding forever.
**Midrise 1. A proposed nine-to-eleven-storey multiunit residential building (tenure to be determined) in Toronto’s west end. We’re going to start with a rezoning and see where we take it from there.
stuff I’ve enjoyed
This is some of the content I’ve come across over the past month that I’ve really enjoyed.
Article: This will be a two-fold recommendation for a specific article and for every article written by its author. The Construction Physics newsletter is one of my new favourites and covers “why buildings are built the way they are”.
This article in particular addresses a recurring theme, the problem of declining construction productivity, and sketches out a research roadmap to get to some answers. It’s fascinating.
Book: I’ve been reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and The Vile, which covers Winston Churchill’s early premiership, starting on his first day when Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium (following earlier invasions of Poland and Czechoslovakia). As with all Erik Larson books, it’s a page turner.
Among other things, it details Churchill’s appointment of Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of the newly formed Ministry of Aircraft Production. His mandate was to, well, increase the production of aircrafts. And he did. Within his first two months as Minister, new aircraft were exiting factories at a rate of 363 per week, up from 245.
Podcast: Strike CEO Jack Mallers is featured in a new What Bitcoin Did episode, and it’s great. He’s maybe the most charismatic CEO in the space.
Over the past year or two, most of my thinking as it relates to bitcoin has been focused on its utility as a store of value, particularly in an inflationary environment. In this episode, Jack focuses almost exclusively on its utility as a global monetary network, as borderless payment rails that can undergird value transfer regardless of how that value is denominated.
Video: Elon Musk is taking us to Mars. For that to happen, he needs to get us excited about it. A bright future requires authorship and buy-in. To that end, among other things, he’s released this cool SpaceX video showing us what a trip to Mars could look like. And it looks cool.
And that’s it for now. Here’s to a good and productive March.
Feel free to reply to this email with any comments or questions. I love chatting about everything mentioned above.