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In response to the need for the next generation of skilled, inventive, critical, and creative thinkers and entrepreneurs to flourish in the future workforce, Australia’s Haileybury is launching a new entrepreneurship programme with edtech company HEX.

Students will develop the skills and knowledge required to be creative and entrepreneurial in various settings, including start-ups, technology corporations, existing businesses, the public sector, and social enterprises. They will also learn how to adapt and thrive in a virtual, competitive, innovation-led environment by merging real-world and theory-based techniques and applying them to the startup ecosystem.

Also read: New exchange program to foster Indian and Australian female tech talent

Universities such as RMIT, the University of Wollongong, and Torrens University will recognise the curriculum for ‘previous learning.’ Students in Years 10 and 11 can participate in the self-paced online curriculum. Students will have regular mentoring with the HEX team and industry experts, including Leon Belebrov, Principal Product Manager, Mobile at job search site Seek; Shoaib Iqbal, CEO & Founder of satellite technology startup Esper Satellites; and a host of technologists from tech giant Atlassian, in addition to the self-paced online learning and fortnightly check-ins with Haileybury Head of Entrepreneurship Damien Meunier.

Through “HEXcurisions,” they will also be exposed to the Melbourne startup environment and meet with founders, investors, and technologists. It’s an experience that most high school students will never have, and it could help them in their future jobs by opening up doors they didn’t know existed. Students who complete the Haileybury Enterprise Academy can receive recognition of prior learning’ in various business programmes at pre-approved universities around Australia, including RMIT University, the University of Wollongong, and others.

HEX Chief Growth Officer Chris Hoffmann, says: “We are thrilled to launch our first high school partnership program with one of Australia’s innovative and most entrepreneurial schools. We believe young people and the next generation need to be exposed to new learning pathways and future opportunities to unlock their full potential and help them design and build the world they want to live in. 

“With the world and future workforce changing at such a rapid pace and innovation being pivotal across all areas of business, it is an exciting time for us to challenge the traditional education pathways and see how we can further children’s skills and experiences sooner in life.

READ MORE: NSW launches online hub to support female entrepreneurs

“We look forward to forging partnerships with more forward-thinking schools and education providers to deliver a new kind of learning that keeps pace with the changes of tech, the workplace and the real world.”

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Sanofi’s technology for making natural killer (NK) cell therapies came from an M&A move. The pharmaceutical giant just struck a deal that adds a CRISPR-editing technology to its to toolkit for developing NK cell-based therapies for cancer.

The CRISPR technology is from Scribe Therapeutics, a startup co-founded by CRISPR technology pioneer Jennifer Doudna. Whereas CRISPR’s initial development employed the Cas9 cutting enzyme, Alameda, California-based Scribe’s platform is comprised of gene-editing and delivery tools based on CasX, a protein discovered in Doudna’s lab. CasX is a smaller protein, which makes it a better fit for the in vivo gene-editing applications that are the focus of the startup’s internal research.

Sanofi will apply the Scribe technology to ex vivo NK cell therapies. According to financial terms announced Tuesday, the pharma giant is paying $25 million up front. Development and commercialization milestone payments to Scribe could top $1 billion; Scribe would also receive royalties from sales of any approved products that stem from the collaboration.

NK cells are a type of immune cell endowed with tumor-killing enzymes. NK cells seek out cancer cells to carry out their work, and they have application across many tumor types. Two years ago, Sanofi licensed an off-the-shelf NK cell therapy from Kiadis Pharma that was in preclinical development. The stated goal was to pair that drug with Sarclisa, a Sanofi antibody drug for multiple myeloma.

Months after the licensing deal was announced, Sanofi agreed to acquire the biotech outright for €308 million cash. Sanofi said Kiadis’s NK cell therapies would be developed as standalone treatments and in combinations with the pharma giant’s drugs. Sanofi’s pipeline currently lists one clinical-stage NK program from Kiadis: SAR445419, an off-the-shelf therapy, is in Phase 1 testing for acute myeloid leukemia.

Companies conducting NK cell research are working to bring cell therapy to solid tumors. The first cell therapies, based on engineering a patient’s own T cells, have worked only on blood cancers so far. Frank Nestle, Sanofi’s global head of research and chief scientific officer, said in a statement that his company sees NK cells having applications in both solid tumors and blood cancers.

“This collaboration with Scribe complements our robust research efforts across the NK cell therapy spectrum and offers our scientists unique access to engineered CRISPR-based technologies as they strive to deliver off-the-shelf NK cell therapies and novel combination approaches that improve upon the first generation of cell therapies,” he said.

Scribe emerged from stealth in 2020, backed by a $20 million Series A round of financing. Last year, Scribe closed a $100 million Series B round to finance further development of its technology platform and to advance its pipeline of CRISPR-based therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The biotech’s neuroscience work previously led to a research partnership with Biogen focused on developing CRISPR-based therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In May, the two companies announced that Biogen had exercised its option to expand the collaboration to an additional disease target in gene therapy. That target was not disclosed.

Photo: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

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Average monthly rents in the Greater Toronto Area surged 21 per cent on a year-over-year basis in August, according to the latest rent report by Rentals.ca and Bullpen Research & Consulting.

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Rent for all property types was up $430 to $2,528 from $2,098 in August 2021, further surpassing the pre-pandemic high of $2,461 recorded in 2019. The average is also now 28.2 per cent above the COVID low of $1,972 per month set last April.

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August rent was also up on a monthly basis, rising 2.7 per cent since July. Rental rates in the GTA have now risen by two per cent or more for the past four consecutive months, following a rise of 5.7 per cent in May, which was a multi-year high.

Rent inflation can largely be chalked up to the rising interest rate environment, “which has made owning a home more expensive and resulted in a swift decline in prices in the resale market,” the report said.

With the Bank of Canada expected to continue to hike interest rates, demand for rental properties could persist.

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In the Toronto market, apartment rents jumped 20.1 per cent. The area with the highest average across all property types was the Bay Street Corridor, at $2,779.

So far in the third quarter, average rents in Toronto have increased 13.8 per cent from the second quarter, ahead of North York (10.1 per cent), Scarborough (9.4 per cent), Etobicoke (5.7 per cent) and Mississauga (5.1 per cent).

  1. A person walking by a row of houses in Toronto.

    Investors are trying to fill the multifamily rental housing gap and that’s not a bad thing

  2. The growth in renter households has more than doubled the growth of owner households, Statistics Canada says.

    Canada’s homeownership rate is declining while renting is on the rise

  3. A for sale sign is displayed outside a home in Toronto.

    Canada’s home sales and prices are falling. Has something changed in the housing market?

“From May to August, the Greater Toronto Area rental market has experienced four significant monthly rent increases, as tenant demand has skyrocketed due to interest rate changes, a resale house price correction and the typical seasonal fall uptick,” said Ben Myers, president of Bullpen.

He noted as well that listings on TorontoRentals.com hit a multi-year high in August, doubling over the past year and up 166 per cent from August 2020.

“Prospective tenants are seeing limited vacancies due to an extreme imbalance between supply and demand, with year-to-date new housing completions down 22 per cent annually in the metro area per CMHC,” he said.

• Email: shcampbell@postmedia.com

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“It is with great disappointment that I’m writing to let you know that Optus has been a victim of a cyberattack that has resulted in the disclosure of some of your personal information,” this is the email notification of the data breach that was sent to millions of Australians and signed by Telecom CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin last week.

Optus, Australia’s second-largest telco, suffered a major data breach on Wednesday, Sept 21, with potentially millions of customers’ personal information leaked by a malicious cyber-attack. Customers’ names, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email addresses may have been compromised, according to Optus. 

Ms Rosmarin said at a video conference that she felt “terrible.” “I’m very sorry and apologetic. It should not have happened. I’m angry that people out there want to do this to our customers,” she said.

Some clients’ street addresses, driving licence information, and passport numbers were also obtained. Then, over the weekend, a user claimed to have the information gained from the attack and demanded $1 million in Monero cryptocurrency on a data market.

The user claimed to have obtained the information using an application programming interface (API) that did not require authentication, which is software that enables two different systems to communicate with one another. Due to Optus’s obligation to retain identity verification records for six years, the cyberattack may have impacted customers as far back as 2017. 

The telco has previously issued privacy guideline amendments allowing consumers to request the deletion of their data. In the aftermath of the hack, Australia intends to change its privacy regulations so that banks can swiftly receive alerts.

Was the Optus data encrypted?

According to Andrew Wilson, CEO of Senetas, the major concern Optus must solve is if the data is secure. Encryption maintains the security of common digital transactions such as online banking and shopping.

“If this is strongly encrypted sensitive data, as it should be, then Optus customers do not need to be alarmed. They likely have years to change their passports and other identity documents before the attackers can read and use what they’ve stolen. If it isn’t, customers need to get onto that process today. That’s quite a difference!”

“Further statements from Optus that this was a very “sophisticated” attack are unsatisfactory. Very sophisticated and increasingly malicious attacks are common. That’s why ‘data protection’ is essential today – and that’s encryption. It is the last line of defence. Whether the stolen data is encrypted or not should be in the first communication about a successful breach. It is concerning that this vital bit of information is missing so far.

“Many have questioned whether the prevention systems like those used by Optus are sufficient, or if the company under-invested in its cybersecurity, and this is the inevitable result. This is unlikely. No cyber-attack prevention system is bulletproof.

“The focus should instead be on regulation – we need comprehensive federal cybersecurity legislation that punishes companies and government agencies that fail to encrypt sensitive data. Not every company can afford the type of prevention systems Optus has, but the lesson must not be that they shouldn’t try or have a last line of defence in place should a breach occur.”

Major overhaul underway

Australia plans changes to its privacy rules so that banks can be alerted faster-following cyber-attacks at companies. According to media reports, the federal government is considering legislation obliging businesses to notify banks if client data is hacked, allowing lenders to monitor impacted accounts for suspicious behaviour.

Over the weekend, Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neill stated that the government would announce additional details about the reforms “in the coming days.” Australia has been working to strengthen its cyber defences and, in 2020, planned to invest A$1.66 billion ($1.1 billion) over a decade to protect company and household network infrastructure.

Ajay Unni, CEO and Founder of StickmanCyber, emphasises the need to educate and train business users because they are the weakest link in cybersecurity.

“While having technical defences is a step forward in terms of cybersecurity maturity, I cannot emphasise the importance of training and educating business users as people are always the weakest link regarding cybersecurity. 

“Third-party risk is another area that requires close attention as larger organisations are often infiltrated through their partnerships with external suppliers.

“As the complexity and frequency of cyber threats increase exponentially, it is extremely sad to see Australia under attack from cybercriminals who are finding success in exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to businesses and critical infrastructure.

“Telcos like Optus carry large amounts of information about their customers such as call patterns, incoming/outgoing phone numbers, data/internet usage and other forms of personal information that can be easily exploited.

“The data exposed can now be maliciously used to create fake identities or as a launchpad to further target users individually through spear-phishing campaigns. These campaigns will now be even more effective as cybercriminals have access to more information than just an email address.

“The findings of the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s investigation into Optus’s data breach will reveal the true nature of the attack – whether it was the work of cybercriminals or a state-sponsored attack.

“Optus users need to remain vigilant of any email offering support due to this breach, even if the email appears to be from an authoritative or legitimate source. Optus customers need to do their due diligence regarding cyber hygiene and avoid clicking on any links in emails unless their legitimacy has been validated.”

According to Thales’ global research, – Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure 2022, critical infrastructure industries worldwide continue to face severe challenges and gaps in their approach to protection and risk management. 

A lack of protection for cloud-hosted data and apps, along with an increase in the extent and severity of attacks during the last 24 months, has raised the threat level posed by hacktivists and nation-state actors. Security techniques that are no longer appropriate for today’s dynamic threat landscape are increasingly endangering nations, organisations, and people’s lives.

Businesses warned to watch out for scams

Following the Optus data breach, ACCC Scamwatch is urging customers to protect their accounts and be on the lookout for fraud. 

As per ACCC, steps you can take to protect your personal information include:

  • Secure your devices and monitor for unusual activity
  • Change your online account passwords and enable multi-factor authentication for banking
  • Check your accounts for unusual activity, such as items you haven’t purchased
  • Place limits on your accounts or ask your bank how you can secure your money

If you suspect fraud, you can request a ban on your credit report.

More information about how to protect yourself is available on the OAIC website.

Check the Optus website(link is external) for information and contact Optus via the My Optus App or call 133 937.

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Healthcare is an industry designed to provide essential services and care for patients to improve their health and well-being. Over generations, the expertise of medical professionals has allowed the industry to continuously innovate and meet the ever-changing demands and needs of patients — ranging from spikes in mental health to safety concerns regarding an in-person doctor’s visit during a global pandemic. Most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the agility of the healthcare industry to innovate, as we have experienced a surge of medical startups emerging to accommodate new demands and gaps in the industry with digital innovations. There are a number of digital-first methods that improve the healthcare experience for patients, from remote patient monitoring to tech-enabled patient care, virtual reality in the operating room, and more.

As digital health companies solidify their services and technologies as a preference for many, and innovations continue to be developed, it’s critical for healthcare startups to understand the needs of patients and physicians. Companies can hear those important perspectives during innovation development for a successful product or treatment that ultimately propels the healthcare industry.

Improving R&D with the voice of patients and physicians

Many new medical tools and technologies being developed ultimately end up in a doctor’s office, prompting the need for startups to collaborate with physicians during the research and development phase. By engaging physicians in this critical stage, startups can ensure physicians feel confident in adopting and implementing the new innovations within their own practice.

Beyond verifying medical accuracy, physicians can provide exclusive insights to help navigate any number of strategic issues or healthcare challenges that may be unseen to a startup, as well as inform any gaps in a new tool or technology — such as a potential feature or add-on recommendation — based on what they are seeing in the field.

Complementing their medical expertise, physicians also serve as the voice of the patient; with a growing emphasis on tools and technologies being developed specifically for patient use and improved health outcomes, physicians are a valuable asset in informing startups with unique patient perspectives during the R&D phase. Physicians are in constant communication with patients, which provides them with a front row seat to their evolving healthcare needs and desires, as well as feedback or concerns regarding industry innovations at large. With an inside look into what patients need, and the ability to identify consistent trends among patient groups, physicians can share invaluable insights to startups that reflect today’s patient and help optimize new tools or technologies.

Maximizing go-to-market strategies

While the healthcare landscape is known for constant change, these transformations have created a new type of patient. Increasingly, patients are much savvier and more engaged with their personal healthcare journeys; and they are investing the time to become better informed about any health product, tool or treatment. As such, startups should approach their innovations and market strategy with the understanding that patients will do their own research and read the fine print before buying into a new product or technology.

While physicians can ensure medical accuracy during the R&D phase, moving forward these experts can help maximize startups’ go-to-market strategy. Particularly in healthcare, it can be challenging to simplify a new product or technology into layman’s terms without removing any critical medical information pertaining to use. Physicians can help startups identify key messages to include in communication and product materials, as well as common questions or concerns that may arise from patients to include in an FAQ. A physician’s — and startup’s — goal is to help patients, and by enlisting the support of physician expertise, startups can ensure easy-to-understand, transparent, and factual language within their go-to-market strategy to best reach patients.

Fuel startups with leading experts

Often, companies are challenged in sourcing the right expertise for a new project. And as the healthcare digital innovation market continues to grow at a rapid pace, time is of essence — however, startups cannot compromise real science. Thankfully, a national network of expert physicians can be found in one location.

By applying a gig economy model to healthcare innovation, flipMD from GoodRx is lowering the barrier for physicians and businesses to connect and collaborate through an easy-to-use online platform. Whether the latest innovation is in the research and development phase or ready to go to market, the on-demand marketplace for physicians allows startups to remain at the forefront of medicine and conserve their time in identifying the right expertise by posting a job with unique parameters to recruit experts from a broad range of specialties.

In today’s evolving healthcare industry and amid rising consumer demand, it’s important for startups to collaborate with physicians to successfully innovate while staying on track. Discover how to fuel your startups’ momentum by collaborating with expert physicians.

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Businesses will need to actively monitor their income and expenses to maintain positive cash flow since economic headwinds, ranging from inflation and supply chain delays to higher interest rates and decreased consumer spending, are expected to persist throughout FY24. 

According to an unsettling new report, three-quarters of SMEs expect reduced cash flow before July of next year. Small Business Loans Australia, an Australian comparison website that assists Australian business owners in selecting the best financing and loan options in Australia, performed the research, which included 253 Australian SME owners and decision-makers.

There were 68 per cent micro businesses (1-10 employees), 18 per cent small businesses (11-50 employees), and 14% medium-sized businesses among the respondents (51–200 employees).

SMEs are expecting a cash-flow crisis

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents said rising interest rates and inflation would impact their cash flow before FY24. Specifically, 30 per cent feel their cash flow would be damaged because it will be more difficult to recover consumer payments, while 26 per cent believe it will be more difficult to generate customers. Another 20 per cent stated that both issues would impact their cash flow. According to the survey, 44 per cent of respondents do not have a strategy in place to maintain cash flow during difficult times. 

How much cash flow do small businesses require to stay afloat? Small Business Loans Australia also inquired about the amount of cash flow needed each month to cover business expenses. Although 68 per cent of all respondents are tiny enterprises, more than a third (39 per cent) claimed they need more than $50,000.

Will fewer small businesses invest in themselves?

Small Business Loans Australia wanted to know if the ability and incentive of small businesses to invest in themselves would be impacted by rapidly rising interest rates and inflation. More specifically, more than a quarter (29 per cent) of respondents saidthey had no plans to invest in their firms at all this fiscal year.

Forty per cent (40 per cent) will postpone planned investments until conditions improve, demonstrating that many small businesses’ motivation to grow is closely related to excellent economic conditions. Fifteen per cent will stop or have already terminated investment in their company, while only 17 per cent would continue to invest.

Among the businesses who had planned to invest in themselves before July 2024 (including those who are cancelling their investments), half (56 per cent) planned to invest more than $50,000, and a quarter (27 per cent) planned to invest more than $70,000.

The recent ABS Business Conditions and Sentiments survey found that in the first three months of 2023, 30 per cent of employing businesses had planned to increase wages and salaries, and 27 per cent would increase employee numbers. However, small businesses are less likely to action these investments to the same extent as larger businesses.

Alon Rajic, the founder of Small Business Loans Australia, says: “As Australian businesses continue to face the repercussions of the last two years, a significant proportion will have challenges, particularly without a savings buffer or strategy to help meet their expenses.

“One of the most effective ways to invest in and protect a business is to grow customers and sales – especially acquiring customers who have healthy incomes and good cash flow. This could be a good time for small businesses to develop a strategy to not only survive but grow. Businesses often reduce costs when external conditions impact them but then de-prioritise, driving new sales. However, there are opportunities even in tough conditions. 

“Growth often requires investment. Improving your product or service offering, getting in front of new customers, and customer loyalty will be important for many businesses that want to succeed in these times. For most, it will require financing.”

Alon adds: “Businesses seeking financing to help them will have a plethora of loan products to wade through. Research and loan comparisons will be important to finding the most suitable and lowest-risk loan. This may include flexibility in repayments and lower fixed interest rates. Many loans may have hidden costs and fees that should be factored into decision-making.

“However, ultimately, it is important for SMEs to seek advice from a licensed financial adviser before committing to a loan to ensure they can meet repayments and higher interest rates during periods of reduced cash flow. Using a comparison service can also assist in finding an appropriate loan option with lower interest rates.”

The full survey results can be found here.

Source: Small Business Loans.

ABS, June 2022 data: abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/business-indicators/business-conditions-and-sentiments/jun-2022

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Gabrielle Munzer has been promoted to Partner at deep tech venture capital firm Main Sequence. Gabrielle will manage the firm’s renewed emphasis on bringing biotechnology (biotech) research to scale in her new role.

Gabrielle has been an integral part of the Fund’s “Feed 10 Billion People” and “Decarbonise the Planet”challenge during her three years at Main Sequence, assisting in the creation of new companies such as animal-free dairy company Eden Brew and infinite plastic recycling company Samsara Eco.

This year, she teamed with UNSW to launch Australia’s first biotech accelerator programme, SynBio 10x, to assist companies in accelerating their biotech or synthetic biology (SynBio) product development and commercialisation. 

As Australia embraces global bio-revolution, Gabrielle Munzer, Partner at Main Sequence, told Dynamic Business, “Australia has a great opportunity to become a leader in the fields of synthetic biology (synbio) and biotechnology. 

“With greater emphasis being put on our environmental output and the future of our planet, we are seeing Australian researchers delve deeper into reimagining the future of food, agriculture, plastics and more. 

“But this is just the beginning of where we’re headed. Solving the world’s biggest challenges requires much collaboration, and that’s where programs such as our SynBio 10x accelerator become so powerful. 

“As our research base continues to grow, the program serves as a way for us to support the burgeoning synthetic biology industry in Australia, helping to fast-track startups in the field, providing mentorship, infrastructure and capital.”

A $27 billion opportunity

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Main Sequence was launched in Australia in 2017 to handle the CSIRO Innovation Fund, which was established by the Australian Government and the national science agency to reinvest its historic contributions into future triumphs. Main Sequence’s Fund I and Fund II have invested in 42 firms that are transforming healthcare delivery, food production, and space connectivity, among other things.

Quasar Satellite Technologies, Endua, Eden Brew, and Samsara Eco were all born from Main Sequence’s Fund II, which saw the fruition of the firm’s innovative Venture Science model’s benefits. The method involves selecting a significant global challenge and putting together a research team to address it. The company will continue to focus on biologically-based solutions to address the world’s most pressing problems through Venture Science in its upcoming Fund III.

With support from the business community, CSIRO predicts that SynBio-enabled solutions could have a profound impact on the world and position Australia for a $27 billion opportunity that could create 44 thousand new employment by 2040. 

Main Sequence Founding Partner Phil Morle said, “Biology and nature’s smallest elements have formed the foundation of many leading innovations, for example, the insulin that is used for treating diabetes. Today, we’re only scratching the surface of the possibilities biotech and SynBio offer. Gabrielle is an important voice inside Main Sequence, pushing the boundaries and unearthing the next generation of breakthrough inventions.

“She brings a unique perspective based on years of helping to inspire leaders and build companies that challenge the way we think about alleviating the world from human damage.”

Researchers could overcome some of Australia’s biggest problems with the aid of synthetic biology-enabled solutions, which have applications in fields including health, agriculture, biosecurity, and the environment. According to CSIRO, by 2040, synthetic biology could provide up to $27 billion in annual income and 44,000 new jobs for Australia under a high growth, high market share scenario.

This National Synthetic Biology Roadmap report, published in August 2021, details the potential benefits of synthetic biology for Australia and offers suggestions for how to speed up the development, scalability, and commercial success of its uses.

Read the report PDF (4 MB)

More on Main Sequence.

More here.

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Canada’s homeownership rate has declined to 66.5% after peaking in 2011 at 69% as people struggle to get off sidelines

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Canada’s homeownership rate has declined to 66.5 per cent after peaking in 2011 at 69 per cent, according to a Statistics Canada release Wednesday, with the agency acknowledging that people are having a hard time getting off the sidelines.

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“Trying to figure out the right time to buy is a difficult decision that can leave Canadians wondering how long they want to hold out on entering the real estate market — or whether they even want to,” the agency said in its report.

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While the slowdown in home starts and sales continues, home prices had previously increased to such levels that even a major correction may not be enough for most Canadians to enter the market given current interest rates.

Adults under the age of 75, especially young millennials aged 25 to 29 years, were less likely to own their home in 2021 than a decade earlier, according to the Statistics Canada report, Portrait of Housing in Canada 2011-2021.

Meanwhile, the growth in renter households has more than doubled the growth of owner households. The agency said renter households grew 21 per cent between 2011 and 2021 compared to the homeownership growth rate of 8.4 per cent.

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Housing is still at its most unaffordable level in 30 years — since the height of the housing bubble in the 1980s and the 1990s — according to recent reports by the National Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Canada.

Despite the higher costs, Statistics Canada said the number of households that spent more than 30 per cent of their income on housing declined to 20.9 per cent in 2021 from 24 per cent in 2016.

The rate of unaffordable housing for renters fell to 33.2 per cent from 40 per cent during the same timeframe, with most of the decline occurring among renters earning below the median renter household income (68.4 per cent in 2016, compared with 56 per cent in 2021).

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians found housing more affordable in 2021 because they had higher incomes, in large part due to pandemic support programs.

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Despite broad-based increases in wages and salaries, however, income inequality increased in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same quarter a year earlier, according to the latest Distributions of Household Economic Accounts estimates.

City dwellers faced the highest unaffordable housing rates. The percentage of renters spending more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs in 2021 was above the national average in 33 of 42 large urban downtowns.

More than one-third of dwellings built from 2011 to 2021 were occupied and primarily maintained by millennial renters or owners in 2021, the largest share of any generation. Millennials also represented the largest share of condominium occupants (30.2 per cent).

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  1. Teranet–National Bank National Composite House Price posted its largest drop in its history Tuesday.

    Teranet home price index posts biggest drop in its history

  2. Since price movements with larger deviations from the long-term trend influence consumer sentiments more, the idea that buyers' remorse is more pronounced now is taking root.

    Falling housing prices may not be leading to widespread buyers’ remorse the way you think

  3. Homes under construction in a development in Langford, B.C.

    Housing inventory may reach crisis point in major Canadian centres, report finds

But Canadian housing starts have declined since Statistics Canada collected the data for its report. The decline in August was 2.8 per cent, to 267,443 units, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, from 275,158 units in July, according to data released by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The decline comes amid widespread concern about a shortage of housing supply in the country.

Residents of Atlantic Canada have historically been the most likely to be homeowners, and this remained true in 2021 even though rates declined. Indeed, the largest declines in the country were posted in Prince Edward Island, down to 68.8 per cent from 73.4 per cent, and Nova Scotia, down to 66.8 per cent from 70.8 per cent.

British Columbia had the third-largest decline in homeownership (66.8 per cent from 70 per cent), followed by Ontario, which was down to 68.4 per cent from 71.4 per cent.

Quebec had the smallest drop (to 59.9 per cent from 61.2 per cent), but still had the lowest homeownership rate in Canada, as has historically been the case. The Northwest Territories had the only increase.

• Email: shcampbell@postmedia.com

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Home prices so high that even a major correction may not be enough for most Canadians to enter the market as interest rates rise

Article content

Canada’s homeownership rate has declined to 66.5 per cent after peaking in 2011 at 69 per cent, according to a Statistics Canada release Wednesday, with the agency acknowledging that people are having a hard time getting off the sidelines.

Advertisement 2

Story continues below

Article content

“Trying to figure out the right time to buy is a difficult decision that can leave Canadians wondering how long they want to hold out on entering the real estate market — or whether they even want to,” the agency said in its report.

Article content

While the slowdown in home starts and sales continues, home prices had previously increased to such levels that even a major correction may not be enough for most Canadians to enter the market given current interest rates.

Adults under the age of 75, especially young millennials aged 25 to 29 years, were less likely to own their home in 2021 than a decade earlier, according to the Statistics Canada report, Portrait of Housing in Canada 2011-2021.

Meanwhile, the growth in renter households has more than doubled the growth of owner households. The agency said renter households grew 21 per cent between 2011 and 2021 compared to the homeownership growth rate of 8.4 per cent.

Advertisement 3

Story continues below

Article content

Housing is still at its most unaffordable level in 30 years — since the height of the housing bubble in the 1980s and the 1990s — according to recent reports by the National Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Canada.

Nevertheless, Statistics Canada said the number of households that spent more than 30 per cent of their income on housing declined to 20.9 per cent in 2021 from 24 per cent in 2016.

The rate of unaffordable housing for renters fell to 33.2 per cent from 40 per cent during the same timeframe, with most of the decline occurring among renters earning below the median renter household income (68.4 per cent in 2016, compared with 56 per cent in 2021).

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians found housing more affordable in 2021 because they had higher incomes, in large part due to pandemic support programs.

Advertisement 4

Story continues below

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Even with the broad-based increases in wages and salaries, income inequality increased in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same quarter a year earlier, according to the latest Distributions of Household Economic Accounts estimates.

City dwellers faced the highest unaffordable housing rates. The percentage of renters spending more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs in 2021 was above the national average in 33 of 42 large urban downtowns.

“We’re seeing the results of people dropping out of the homeownership game, and they’re moving into rental and there’s just not enough affordable rentals being built,” Cherise Burda, executive director of City Building TMU at Toronto Metropolitan University, said of the current market.

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“We’re doing something wrong. With all this effort and energy and resources from the national housing strategy, we’re not generating more affordable units. We need to have a really targeted focus for the next several years on building affordable rental because that’s where people are dropping down in the housing ladder, and that’s where we need effort and funding and resources the most.”

More than one-third of dwellings built from 2011 to 2021 were occupied and primarily maintained by millennial renters or owners in 2021, the largest share of any generation. Millennials also represented the largest share of condominium occupants (30.2 per cent).

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But Canadian housing starts have declined since Statistics Canada collected the data for its report. The decline in August was 2.8 per cent, to 267,443 units, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, from 275,158 units in July, according to data released by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The decline comes amid widespread concern about a shortage of housing supply in the country.

Residents of Atlantic Canada have historically been the most likely to be homeowners, and this remained true in 2021 even though rates declined. Indeed, the largest declines in the country were posted in Prince Edward Island, down to 68.8 per cent from 73.4 per cent, and Nova Scotia, down to 66.8 per cent from 70.8 per cent.

British Columbia had the third-largest decline in homeownership (66.8 per cent from 70 per cent), followed by Ontario, which was down to 68.4 per cent from 71.4 per cent.

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Quebec had the smallest drop (to 59.9 per cent from 61.2 per cent), but still had the lowest homeownership rate in Canada, as has historically been the case. The Northwest Territories had the only increase.

Overall, the agency’s release indicates there is more pressure on the rental market regardless of increased household incomes, leaving the housing industry worried that both rental and homeowner prices are growing out of reach for many.

“We are going to push people out of our cities, out of our urban areas, even our suburban areas because people can’t afford to live there,” Burda said. “It’s really critical, if we want to maintain a workforce, to keep our cities functioning, to keep our cities welcoming. We need to focus on building more affordable housing.”

• Email: shcampbell@postmedia.com

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People taking their mental health into their own hands via the use of psychedelics. Recent college graduates entering the workforce without ever stepping foot in an office. Individuals who make investment decisions based on Reddit. 

These newly emerging populations represent the forces that are shaping the future of health today, and healthcare organizations that pay attention to these new pivotal groups will stay relevant in a post-pandemic world.

These new populations are best exemplified by the archetypal personas I met Monday at an interactive event in Chicago. The event, titled Inspiration Experience: Renaissance 2022,” took place Monday at the Oliver Wyman’s Health Innovation Summit. Billed as an “immersive experience,” it was more an interactive event that featured presentations from actors and members of Oliver Wyman’s health and life sciences team.

The event summarized Oliver Wyman’s consumer research and explored four major trends that will play critical roles in accelerating digitization within major industries such as healthcare, technology, science, technology, manufacturing and education. The presentations also introduced new names for emerging consumer and employee populations, such as “digital bloomers” and “citizens of the metaverse.”

To conduct the research that informed the interactive event, Oliver Wyman surveyed more than 100,000 respondents across nine countries from August 2020 to December 2021. The countries were the U.S., U.K., Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and China.

Dr. Who? Dr. Me

In this section, we met three characters who embodied the country’s changing health behaviors. The first was Ruchir, a young man using ketamine therapy to treat his depression. After years of unsuccessful treatments — including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and transcranial magnetic stimulation — he began the psychedelic therapy and is finally seeing progress for his condition.

Though his mental health is improving, he is plagued with endless back-and-forths with his health plan, begging it to cover his treatment given it is the only thing that is working for him. It is doubly frustrating for him given the therapy has been proven to be effective. He is also bothered by the fact that ketamine therapy was not widely available at mental health facilities. 

Next, we met Hannah, an expecting mother who is on her way to meet with her doula. This is Hannah’s first pregnancy, and she knows she needs a doula to help guide her through the emotional and oftentimes overwhelming process of preparing for childbirth. She is grateful that she is able to afford the doula, but expresses resentment and confusion as to why her insurer didn’t cover the services. Research proves that expectant mothers who are matched with a doula have better birth outcomes — Hannah felt like her health plan didn’t prioritize her best interest of her child’s health. 

Jay, the final character, is an athlete focused on optimizing his physical performance. He is willing to try every new and existing technology available to strengthen the full spectrum of his wellbeing. However, he said that when he brought up sleep tracking technology and the other wearables that he used to understand his health to his physician, she was dismissive of his efforts to learn from his health data. 

Each of these characters represents a society that is becoming more educated and aware of “alternative” therapies and ways to measure their health. They demonstrate a frustration that more and more patients are feeling: Why should I listen to my doctor when they don’t even know all of my options? The presentation recommended that healthcare companies respond to these consumer trends by keeping their operating models up to date as new research and care delivery breakthroughs continue to emerge.

Influencers over Institutions

As exemplified by Ruchir, Hannah and Jay, patients have more health information at their fingertips than ever before. Oliver Wyman’s research revealed that people gather the bulk of this information through the Internet. It also found that distrust in experts and corporate organizations is at a high. Rather than turning to institutions, people prefer to get their information — whether it be health advice, political guidance or briefings on current events — from influencers and friends on social media, according to Oliver Wyman’s health and life sciences team.

Investors are not immune to this trend as exemplified in the concept of the “hivemind investor,” a persona representing those whose investment decisions are driven by social media. This character entered mainstream consciousness in January 2021, when the “WallStreetBets” subreddit rallied around stocks that traditional investors on Wall Street had expected to do poorly, such as Gamestop and AMC. Oliver Wyman’s research showed that this community-based approach to investing is unlikely to go away soon, so startups and companies preparing for their IPOs should be aware of this trend.

I also met the “specter of disinformation” as part of the experience. I did this by looking into a mirror — it was meant to reveal the skeptic that lives inside all of us. The presentation reminded me that in a world in which we curate our own information from the vastness of the Internet, it’s imperative that we be discerning when consuming news online. 

I was shown various TikToks and Instagram reels in which users spouted their expertise on disease outbreaks and health maintenance. Some of these videos were more outlandish than others — such as the one that argued raw milk is the only healthy coffee additive — but they all contained health information that was questionable and unvetted. It was then revealed that the accounts I was watching all had more followers than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Instagram followers, that is — so far the CDC doesn’t even have a TikTok account.

People are more likely to trust information when it is delivered by someone they can relate to, the research showed. For a growing number of people, a TikToker uploading content from their home is much more relatable than Anthony Fauci delivering information in a suit. This is a prime area where healthcare companies need to innovate — they are still struggling to handle disinformation and its effects on their customers, Oliver Wyman’s presenters said.

Mobilizing the Metaverse  

Just like social media isn’t going away, neither are digital modes of care delivery. In this session, I learned about two distinct groups: digital bloomers and citizens of the metaverse. 

Digital bloomers are people, mainly those over age 45, who entered the digital ecosystem because of the pandemic. Until then, they did things the analog way and saw no reason to change. Now, this group is becoming increasingly willing to digitize necessities, such as their healthcare interactions, banking and grocery shopping, the research revealed.

The presentation suggested that healthcare companies need to capitalize on this newly emerged group by scaling up their digital offerings and focusing on convenience for the end user. This becomes even more imperative when we think about reaching citizens of the metaverse, a term which refers to people who are willing to participate in a wholly virtual world without hesitation. 

As more and more people become comfortable with the metaverse, healthcare companies have the opportunity to tailor their products and services toward the convergence of virtual and physical reality. This could be as simple as offering more telehealth visits, or as complex as creating virtual reality experiences for physical therapy. During the interactive portion of this session, I was given the chance to take part in various VR experiences, such as a physical therapy session in which patients slash virtual balloons with virtual swords to help regain muscle strength.

The Great Renegotiation

In addition to new consumer preferences, healthcare companies also need to start adapting to new types of employees that have entered the workforce over the past couple years. For example, the workforce has seen an influx of workers who are virtual natives, meaning they graduated during the pandemic and have since taken jobs where they work almost exclusively remotely. 

Without knowing it, this group of young people have reinvented what a white collar job can look like. Many prefer remote work, enjoying the fact that they rarely have to leave the comfort of their homes and pets. Others are unsure whether they enjoy it, finding it strange to have never met your boss in person, according to the research. 

This group has a complicated relationship with returning to the office. In the survey, 87% said they do (or would) enjoy going to the office, and 86% said they would quit or look for another job if they were required to return to the office full-time. As a 2020 graduate and virtual native myself, I can attest to this — my peers and I have mixed feelings on remote work. Conducting more research to understand this population’s unique wants and needs will help healthcare companies discover ways to improve white-collar retention and build employee loyalty, the presentation recommended.

Another employee group that has emerged during the pandemic is blue collar workers who taught themselves new skills that helped them land a white collar job. As these workers shift to white collar positions and blue collar baby boomers continue to retire, the blue collar labor shortage is being exacerbated, according to the research. This will force healthcare companies to fully embrace automation and figure out how humans and machines can best work alongside each other.

During this presentation, I saw two actors have a conversation as Gen Z employees. They worked as call center employees at a regional health plan, and they were on their lunch break. The women talked about remote work concerns and how they were unsure how to advocate for better pay. One of these characters also said she “didn’t even understand” which benefits her employer was offering, claiming that the company needed to do a better job of educating her about them.

From these bemused young workers to hivemind investors to psychedelic explorers, all of these new personas are worth healthcare companies’ attention, according to Oliver Wyman’s presenters. Successful healthcare companies must continually reassess their strategies to keep up with these changing consumer and employee preferences — or they may fall behind.

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