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Ana Bailao

Head of Affordable Housing & Public Affairs, Dream

Ana Bailao

Head of Affordable Housing & Public Affairs, Dream

Milestones in a career and life are a wonderful way of inspiring our emerging young leaders. Please share a proud or “magic moment” that shaped your journey?

The best part about being in the housing industry – whether that was through my role as Deputy Mayor, Chair of Planning and Housing at the City of Toronto, or through my current role at Dream – I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects that have had tremendous impacts on people’s lives. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the real-life impact of a home on people and their families and knowing that you contributed to that.

I have been privileged to have multiple magic moments throughout my career – one of them was back when I was a Toronto City Councillor. I had worked closely with the city to get the first modular housing units built in the City of Toronto, and I got to be there when we welcomed the units’ first tenants.

At Dream, one project in particular really stands out – the West Don Lands. When I was Deputy Mayor in 2018 I joined Ontario’s Minister of Housing to announce the RFP for these provincially owned lands.  The partnership Dream, Kilmer and Tricon (DKT) was awarded the project which received financing from CMHC, and City of Toronto incentives through waivers of development charges and property taxes (open Door Program). Through this successful collaboration, residents were being welcomed into their new purpose-built rental homes by the summer of 2023. 30% of these units are affordable and have supports from several non-profits currently partnering with DKT. It was incredibly inspiring to see policies that I championed at City Hall be successfully implemented and I am thrilled to now be a part of the Dream team working to apply these success stories to other projects.

Who were your major influencers/mentors (up to 2) and what were the key lessons you gained from them?

My grandmother. She always told me, “Never forget where you come from,” because she believed in the importance of community so much. The community that raised you will always be there to support you and when you have the opportunity to give back, you should take it. I share her deep love and commitment to community. I definitely got it from her.

In addition to commitment to community, my grandmother was incredibly resilient. She came from quite modest means, but she worked so hard to give her daughters the best possible education and opportunities in life. She has always inspired me.

What do you think are the next big challenges we need to tackle as an industry and as a successful city-region? Are there specific things you think we should be doing to meet the challenges?

The biggest challenge – and the biggest opportunity – for our industry is the fast-paced growth our region is experiencing without the right market conditions in place to accommodate that growth. Canada is growing at a record pace, which is fantastic for our country and the communities in it. But this growth is being met with roadblocks: high inflation and interest rates, a labour shortage, and a lack of infrastructure to support new and growing communities.

It is becoming increasingly challenging to build affordable homes, and once those homes are built, they are not being met with the infrastructure and services necessary to support the people living in them.

Our industry needs to continue working with government to reduce the cost of taxation and fees so that it costs less to build housing, we need to strengthen our partnerships with not-for-profit organizations, businesses and government to create more housing options, and we need to be more innovative in how we reduce construction costs.

Tell us how you champion others in the industry.

Encouragement, for me, is so important. Whether it’s young people just getting into the industry or leaders who have been doing this work for a long time, we have to lift people up whenever and however we can. I encourage people to take the lead and not be afraid to challenge themselves. It’s also important to empower people by giving them the opportunity to take a lead role on things and really learn by doing. Giving people visibility is also so helpful in this industry. Bringing people to events, showcasing their work on a broader scale and introducing them to more people in the industry are great ways to do help champion others.

What is your secret talent no one knows you have?

I play the ukulele! Back in university, my friends and I started a music group called Luso Can-Tuna to celebrate our Portuguese culture and bring people together through song. 26 years later and the group is still going strong!

What is the best word to describe you? And why?

I would describe myself as a bridge builder. At the end of the day, to get anything done, we need to work together. Right now, more than ever, we need to get housing built and push forward necessary policy changes so we can improve the lives of Canadians and the communities they call home. We do that by working as a team. I was a City Councillor for twelve years, working with people from every political stripe. We did this well because we all shared one common goal: get things done for Torontonians. I carry that same mindset with me at the current role at Dream.