Looks like Mattamy Fairwinds Phase 5 is done!

This is a long story but it’s necessary for everyone to see it in its entirety within a single post.  In May 2008 I plopped down 25K, yes Twenty Five Thousand Dollars, on a new home being built by Mattamy in Kanata.  In early August we got a letter from them stating that construction had been delayed due to permit issues with the city of Ottawa and the province of Ontario.  By the way our original closing date was March 3rd 2009, if memory serves me correctly.  Upon receiving the letter I of course immediately called Mattamy for further information from their sales office/front line PR person.  She was a very pleasant young women who could offer me no more information and I did feel sorry for the position she was in as I imagined she was getting inundated with calls.  During the conversation I asked her when Mattamy would be providing up a follow up letter and she stated most likely sometime in October/November.  I was a little put back that they were not going to provide me, the customer, any more information for another 3 or 4 months while my money was sleeping in their bank account.  So I suggested to her that perhaps they could start a blog to provide at a minimum weekly updates, or hold an information meeting in short order, something at least.  The young women said that was a good idea and would feed it up the food chain. Read the rest of this entry »

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Well I guess it was not the last post After All

Hello everyone and for certain readers out there I say, were back!

I am restored this blog so that future buyers of homes, not just Mattamy homes can read and perhaps have a cautionary tale of buying a new home.  However, I do plan on writing on the blog when I feel that there is necessary information that pertains to Mattamy in particular and specifically on phase 5.

Of note there will be a news story in CJOH this coming Monday, March 29 2010 about us and phase 5 and the result of us NOT ever getting our home.  I will also post after this a summary story of the whole sordid affair that explains why we took the blog down.

To summarize I feel that the corporate culture within Mattamy and perhaps other builders is counter to both good business and customer service. In fact it is plainly wrong, arrogant and to some extent dishonest.  A corporate culture of do not say if not asked places the onus on the customer rather than the seller.  In todays world of corporate responsibility this is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  Things need to change in Ontario with regards to home builders and it needs to change now before more people get screwed over.

So if you have a story email me, see the contact us page.  We the consumer need to stand up and start telling our stories in order for change to happen. It’s about time we are offered the protection we are duly owed as a consumer on the single largest and most important purchase of our life.

Regards
Keith and Danielle

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So Long Everyone – The Last Post

Well everyone it is time to shut this site down as there is no real need for it anymore.  The purpose of the blog was to bring pressure on better communication on a specific issue.  Since that issue has now been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction I see no need in continuing the site. 

This afternoon I signed our new purchase agreement and hope to move into our new home April 22, 2010.

I would like to thank all of the other home buyers who worked with us and helped gather information, make phone calls and attend meetings.  I look forward to each of you being our new neighbours.  I got a great big BBQ so we shall get together for a good steak and beer.

I will be shutting the blog down this Friday but you can always reach me at kchadwick@istudio.ca and keep an eye out for the site anhonestclosingdate.com when we try to work with developers and all parties on improving the planing process.

Thanks so very much to all of you for your support and efforts.  It has been a great experience.

Cheers
Keith, Danielle, Colyn and Ashton…

Till next time….

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The Meeting with Mattamy

Evening everyone.  First off let me say sorry for taking so long to get to this post but believe it or not 11pm this evening is the first opportunity I have had to do a little writing since last Wednesday’s meeting with Mattamy.

Before I dive into the meeting I want to repeat something and make it very clear.  I have never had any problem with Mattamy as a builder or Frank Cairo as a person. We created this blog and media attention to bring attention to what we believed was the very poor level of communication coming from Mattamy in general.  I cannot really blame Mattamy for doing a poor job as the situation was not something that was the norm for them or any other builder for that matter.  However, that does not excuse the way they went about providing accurate and frequent updates of information to the consumer.  Let me repeat this if it is not clear for some of you complainers out there.  Our problem was with the communication not with our homes or the planning process as a whole.  Perhaps Mattamy will learn from this experience and if in the same situation again will realize they should set up a web site or email distribution list or some means of communicating everything that is going on.  Even if the update is nothing more than ‘we met with the city today’ etc but at least something.  Public Relations 101 Mattamy, manage the message or be left with some ‘prick’ like me writing it for you and as you have probably learned that is not a good thing to happen.

So a little about the meeting.  Well first off congratulations for stepping up and calling it in the first place.  You went through the motions and did a fairly good job of explaining yourself. If there was any fault in the meeting it would be your consistent perception that we do not understand the situation or that it is to complex. A couple of 100K is an amazing incentive to learn the details of an issue.  Other than that you did a bang up job and fielded a lot of questions from home buyers that where difficult to answer.  You were also honest with regards to guaranteeing future closing dates by saying ‘no there is no guarantee’.

So some of the details of the meeting and the news.  First and foremost Mattamy has been informed by the 3rd party EA review, the engineering firm I assume, that the miscalculations found in the original EA do NOT impact on phase 5.  This means that there is no EA or engineering reason for phase 5 not to go ahead with construction.  Given this result Mattamy is now pushing ahead with its own engineering assessment, yes including the interim storm overflow pond on the Hortichuck lands, ahead within the framework of the city and the city planning office.  Given that they are technically free of the EA from an engineering standpoint one can only hope that the city will fast track its acceptance of their proposal and that the Ministry of the Environment will to.  I have a feeling they will move it to the top of the heap before certain phase 5 buyers start calling, writing and emailing them with regards to any delay, just a thought!

Interestingly and I believe in the name of building up some trust, Mattamy has offered a 5K bonus if you sign the new contract by October 31st.  The 5K is cash back on taking ownership of the house so amounts to a discount on the price of you house.  I would like to point out that unlike the other options offered by Mattamy which we and our ‘Neighborhood in a Kitchen’ group asked for this option was never asked for. This option was solely Mattamy and I think is a very nice gesture and personally very much appreciated. 

So if you missed the meeting and have not been contacted by Mattamy, get on the phone and call the sales office to get more details.  Of note the new contract is under the new Tarion rules I believe.

So a couple of thoughts to close with.  One, it may surprise you to learn that during the meeting I was not frothing at the mouth and asking hard hitting questions.  In fact the only time I raised my hand was to try and clarify what was already said in a positive way as I believe Mattamy had met all the requirements we set out to get and holding the meeting went beyond them.  So I went to the meeting thinking ‘give them a break and be constructive as they now deserve it’ and that is exactly what I did.

Secondly, where do we go from here with this blog?  Well that is an interesting question I have been asking myself for a week now.  Since we intend to sign the contract and Mattamy has met all the requirements we asked for plus more there is not much more to say or write.  We started this blog on behalf of all our future neighbors not ourselves.  Although there are some folks out there who thought we were doing the 15 minutes of fame gig that was honestly not our intent. In fact these past 8 weeks have been incredibly stressful on both me and my wife. It kept us up late many a night worrying if we were doing the right thing, what to say, how to say it, in what medium and when. Hell I hate getting up early in the morning yet I dragged my sorry butt down to CBC Radio for 7am then actually had to sound coherent. You would not believe me if I told you how nervous I was sitting in that chair for 10 minutes. I guess for us this has been a very difficult and time consuming experience we wish we never would have had to do in the first place.

So now we are moving past this and are going to try and move back to being just another consumer.  Don’t worry Mattamy if there is an issue with my house then that is between you and me not the rest of the world.

We do however plan on creating the web site AnHonestClosingDate.com.  The domain is registered and I have a provider.  But technically it is very difficult site to implement to ensure that people are being honest and are not just simply pissed at their builder for a delay. So from an engineering stand point there is a lot of work ahead for me to ensure that it is fair.  The idea for the site is NOT to penalize developers but rather to point out how the planning process is failing the consumer and the developer as well.  As Mr. Cairo said to me it can be years to get to even the draft approval stage.  I think that is ridiculous to say the least.  All that time amounts to cost that has to be transferred to the purchaser.  One of the commentators on this site has complained about us being upset over our ‘expensive’ homes when there is a huge lack of subsidized homes in Ontario. He/She/It is right, since they signed it anonymous with a bogus email address.  The state of subsidized homes in Ontario is disgusting and we as a society should be ashamed.  However let’s remember that even subsidized housing has to go through the exact same planning process and the costs associated with it.  So our hope is to gather the delays as evidence of how it fails the consumer, since it is the consumer who votes and also to create a working group of field experts.  We want a working group of developers, environmentalists, planners, engineers everybody who is part of that process to start putting their melons together and go to the province and say ‘hey enough, we have a better way and it represents everyone from the builder down to the consumer!’  We need smart people like Frank Cairo and Ted Cooper to start putting that wealth of information down into better and new ideas on how to make things better for everyone instead of spending energy wading through the existing system in frustration.

 So I guess that is about it for now.  I will have some short updates tomorrow and later in the week, in particular a couple who need to sell there Mattamy home in Barhaven and asked me to write it up.  I will get to it folks I promise.

Best wishes to everyone and see you at the BBQ in 2010.

Cheers
Keith, Danielle, Colyn and Ashton Chadwick

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Sorry Frank

I called Frank Cairo this afternoon to have a chat with him. During our conversation Frank indicated that he felt personally attacked by this blog and the media reports.  I want to make something very clear to you Frank as I know you are reading this.  I have never personally attacked you only the company you work for and the actions they have taken over the past 8 weeks.  In fact it may surprise you to find out that I actually like you.  In fact within several minutes of our face to face meeting I liked you.  You struck me as someone who believes in what he is doing and is working hard to get things accomplished.  Your only fault has been in managing the information coming out. If you doubt me ask some of the other home buyers who we met in our kitchen what my comment was about you.  It went something like:

Mr. Cario strikes me as an honest person who truly wishes to see things resolved.  He is the type of guy who would jump into the tractor to get things moving if he felt it would help.

I think that your perception of taking things personally is further proof that you believe in what you are doing and a person of belief is the person who will work the hardest.  I know full well that Mattamy has been working very hard with the city to get things resolved but you have not relayed that to the press or this blog in any fashion.  When I sign off on blog posts with back to your Frank or similar lines they are invitations for you to respond but you never have.

Let me be clear Frank.  I hold absolutely no animosity towards you what so ever and it has never ever been personal.

With regards to lobying the province to change the planning rules I believe a balanced approach is required.  I think that it is incredulous the amount of investment and time that developers have to put in, to even get to draft approval.  Those costs are downloaded to the consumer so I think it is best that that process is dramatically streamlined.  If the end of the process is reduced in time and cost then the ability to go beyond draft approval before selling lots becomes a fiscal possibility.  This would also provide the developers the opportunity to provide an honest closing date.

The fact that the province has downloaded the responsibilities to the municipalities with no oversight to manage and interpret the planning act is a mistake.  Under the current political environment there is far to many hurdles and levels to overcome.  The costs that are incurred by these hurdles are passed directly to the consumer.  There is far to little accountability and oversight with regards to municipal governments, the OMB, MOE, Engineering Firms and developers as well.

It is time the process is changed to the benefit of not only the consumer but the developer as well.  I am not saying that the multiple levels of government are to blame for the current situation but they do play a role by simply following the planning act.

I urge you Frank to contact the media and get your side of the story out and what Mattamy is doing.  If you want to direct attacks at me or this blog then please feel free but by all means call Brendan at the Ottawa Citizen and get your message out.

Lastly Frank, my sincere apologies if you felt personally attacked that was certainly never my intention.  We love our Mattamy Home and dearly look forward to moving in one day but communicate better my friend.

Sincerely
Keith Chadwick

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Well well well Mattamy calls a meeting!!

Before you start reading go get your coffee!  Sorry folks buts its another novel…..

Isn’t it amazing how things transpire over the course of a mere 7 weeks?  In particular today’s letter from Mattamy disclosing that they will hold a meeting for Phase 5 home buyers in the coming weeks.  In particular there is one paragraph that makes me laugh and I absolutely cherish, so here it goes…

We are well aware of the significant amount of inaccurate information that has been presented in various forms over the last few months related to the Fairwinds Community and the associated delays.  An information session is being planned for our Mattamy homeowners in Neighbourhood 5 to discuss the community, the available options presented to you in the letter dated September 16, 2008, and any questions you may have related to your new home.  A personal invitation will be mailed to you in the coming week for this session.”

I absolutely adore the first sentence “significant amount of inaccurate information that has been presented in various forms“.  I assume they are talking about this blog, the media reports and the meeting with the city on September 29th.  Let’s talk about each of these various forms of information shall we.  First off this blog.  When I met with Mr. Cario and Mrs. Murphy on August 28th I strongly encouraged them to submit posts to this blog or to create their own web site that could relay information to the home buyers and answer questions.  They were very clear to me that they wanted to participate and work with us.  Yet, despite these words Mattamy has never contacted us with information to provide via this web site.  Never a single email, phone call or letter.  So much for working with us I guess. With regards to the media, other than the very first story by CJOH every single story in the past 7 weeks, I believe there have been 6; the one consistent factor has been “Mattamy was unavailable for comment“. Lastly, but not least, we recently had a meeting with the City and the MOE where every single player involved in the planning process was available to answer questions.  Yet Mattamy, who was invited by councilor Qadri’s office on numerous occasions never showed up.  They never said “we will not attend” they simply ignored the city’s request to meet with home owners and the city.  I would like to point out that at this meeting were the representatives for the Ministry of the Environment, City Legal, Planning, and Environment and just about everyone else.  The officials who came to the meeting where the people who make the decisions, yet Mattamy did not show. So, back to Mattamy’s comment about inaccurate information.  Guess what Mattamy, if it is inaccurate, no blasted wonder it is since you have not in any way or form participated in the conversation.  In essence you placed everyone in a position of speculation because of your stubborn refusal to participate.

Continuing on the theme of the meeting let’s talk about that for a moment.  First and foremost and yet again I extend my appreciation to Mr. Qadri’s office, in particular Kiel, on arranging the meeting for the home buyers who came.  The meeting was enlightening, informational and productive in my view.  I also think it is worth mentioning the officials who took time out from the very busy schedules to attend the meeting, they were amongst others:

  • Steve Burns
    Ottawa District Manager, Ministry of the Environment
  • John Moser
    Director, Planning Branch, City of Ottawa
  • Rob Mackay
    Director, Economic and Environmental Sustainability, City of Ottawa
  • Mike Wildman
    Director, Infrastructure Approvals, City of Ottawa
  • Tim Marc
    Senior Legal Counsel, City of Ottawa

I would like to give special recognition to Tim Marc, Legal Counsel, who despite my continued questioning managed to very deftly provide answers.  You are very much the lawyer sir but one I respect for your eloquent answers. I would be remiss in also not sending special thanks to Mike Wildman and Steve Burns.  You both bore the brunt of the questions for the group yet never did you speak down only to and that was very much appreciated.  Over all I was very impressed with the level of knowledge and professionalism provided to us. Finally a special tip of the hat to Rob Mackay, your strategic positioning behind us was not missed and your comments were very interesting.  You seem to have a very good understanding of the pulse of the situation!

Okay enough of the love fest let’s talk about substance.  I could most likely write 8 pages from memory on the meeting but I think it pertinent that we boil it down to a couple of points.  First and foremost, Mattamy has done nothing illegal.  They worked within the laws of the planning act as it stands now.  However as the city pointed out the decision to build on draft approval is a business decision.  On this point can someone please point out another developer who owns lands in Kanata West that started selling lots before the freeze and on draft approval?  Bet you cannot find one!!  Ask yourself why?

I like to save the best for last so here it goes.  According to the city Mattamy Phase 5 is not frozen.  Let me repeat that in case you thought I had a sudden lack of clarity. Mattamy Phase 5 is not frozen! How can that be you ask?  It makes no sense you say.  Well it turns out that the lands added to phase 5, known as the Hortichuck lands, for the purpose of the interim storm pond are frozen.  So in essence by adding these lands to Mattamy to Phase 5 for the purpose of the interim storm pond phase 5 by default came under the freeze.  I am not making this up this is direct from the city and if I am wrong I am sure I will get a call from them tomorrow. Now before you start waving your arms about in anger at Mattamy let’s take a minute to think.  It is not clear if Mattamy’s original design for Phase 5 included an interim storm water pond but if it did it was by working in conjunction with Richcraft.  Considering the fact that Richcraft has not set up shop yet Mattamy may have had no choice but to purchase the land and roll the dice on being frozen.  Perhaps this is a question to ask Mattamy during the meeting. Enough said on this…

This morning I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk for a short period of time on the CBC Radio on the issues of Phase 5 and the Planning act.  It was an interesting experience and one I hope to get to repeat some day.  Thanks to CBC for having me.  During the interview we covered the basic history of what is going on but I also had the opportunity to discuss changing the Ontario Provincial Planning Act. As I stated this morning it is incredible the lack of protection that consumers have when buying a home.  I recently read a post on a face book group where a user stated that they had been delayed 6 months but as the poster said it’s the construction industry it is to be expected.  How did we become some complacent? How is it we have gotten to the point where we expect delays when buying a home.  Why do we not allow this type of attitude on any other purchase?  Find me someone who buys a new car and is told it will be delivered in 4 week.  Then 2 days before delivery the salesman calls and says it’s going to be another 6 weeks and can’t say why!  What would your reaction be?  Would you demand and answer?  Would you be one the phone to his manager to find out what the hell was going on?  You bet you would!  Yet why is it ok for developers to do the same thing like in Kanata, 2 year delays under Mattamy, Phase 1 and 4 lots released this summer again under Mattamy 9 month delays only a few weeks in some cases after the initial purchase.

I would also like to announce that I will be setting up a web site in the coming weeks to track closing dates and delays by developers, city, development and phase.  The site will also provide the ability to visitors to sign an online petition to change the Ontario Planning Act.  We will clearly outline the changes we seek in the planning act as part of the petition. The site name is www.AnHonestClosingDate.com.

Finally I have one last point I would like to make because I cannot resist.  Remember those offers we all got from Mattamy two weeks ago.  To jog your memory they where freezing upgrade prices, switch lot to Barrhaven or get your money back now.  Guess who made those suggestions to Frank Cairo?  With regards to the latest development by Mattamy to hold an information meeting with home buyers of phase 5, guess who also made that suggestion way back on August 28th.  If you guessed me then your right! Amazing how the guy who writes inaccurate information was right about what Mattamy should be doing to help its customers.

Until Next time…

Cheers
Keith Chadwick

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Get real and expect…

The whole expectation question is that, at the time of the purchases, Mattamy should have provided the home buyers with a realistic closing date, not the one on our contract. Rather than sending a letter at later date stating that a delay of 8 to 9 months a mere 3 months after the purchase Read the rest of this entry »

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