It has been extensively reported that the immigration targets set by the federal government will require effectively doubling housing starts, and it has to start now. The number of newcomers projected to enter Canada is estimated to be 1.5 million by 2025 and if the supply response cannot keep pace, it will drive the increase in housing prices and continuing erosion of affordability. In a classic “Catch-22” we need these levels of immigration to ensure our economy has access to the labour resources newcomers will provide that our current population cannot satisfy.
Most of these immigrants will settle in Ontario and British Columbia and are joined in BC by record numbers of inter-provincial migration, and a rising level of resident families seeking to form their own households. The Feds are affecting policies to expedite housing supply, and significant moves are being made in Ontario, and here in BC, by the provincial government to increase supply and streamline the approvals process, with most municipalities also looking to adopt measures that will increase available housing.
Noted by Randall Bartlett and Marc Desormeaux senior economists at Desjardins Group: “While the surge in newcomers is likely to push home prices higher and erode affordability again, it is important that we recognize that this is not inevitable … Rather than being considered a reason to curb immigration, it should instead be a catalyst for reducing barriers to building more housing. The contribution of immigrants to the Canadian economy well outweighs their impact on the housing market.”
The residential construction sector is however facing significant headwinds in realizing the opportunity to increase supply with elevated borrowing costs, consistent reports of an impending recession, slowdowns in sales, sharp inflationary cost pressures, increased regulatory requirements, increases in government charges/ fees, and a real and growing shortage of labour resources, all of which are contributing to a reduction in housing starts to the lowest levels since 2020.
HAVAN members across all categories have been reporting on the challenge of securing capable and qualified personnel for some time now in seeking to meet the demands of the spike in volume generated through the pandemic. The strain on labour resources has not eased with the current slowdown, is facing further challenges to meet the projected housing needs, and is further eroded by the ageing out of construction workers withdrawing from the workforce to enjoy retirement.
It is vital that the criteria for immigration focus on green lighting approvals for experienced and skilled applicants that can step into the construction industry and make an immediate impact, however, the need to create and demonstrate a clear and accessible pathway to a career in construction for our youth, women, and underrepresented groups is also essential to ensuring our sector will have a sustainable source of labour resources.
March 8, 2023, was International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week was highlighted from March 5 to 11, and many initiatives and resources have been highlighted in regard to presenting examples of women who have successfully transitioned into the construction industry. Currently, less than 13% of the construction workforce are women, and only about 5% are “on the tools”, and it has been suggested that increasing inclusion of women in construction trades by 5% would alleviate much of our labour shortages.
There are many initiatives being pursued to encourage women to engage in the construction industry from programs such as are being run by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board in conjunction with the Canadian Welding Bureau that introduces girls in Grades 9 and 10 to welding where the program was fully subscribed in 2 days. Participants say “… this has sparked their interest in exploring a world of work that defies gender stereotypes and embracing opportunities that are typically filled by men.”
It is vital that educators, government, and industry recognize the need to reach out early to potential candidates and ensure the creation of an inclusive culture to bring in women and encourage retention. There are companies that are now providing PPE that is directed to women including a maternity line, and employers are encouraged to:
- Organize a women’s committee so workers feel less isolated and can network.
- Develop a pre-delivery/birth maternity benefit.
- Ensure that women have access to clean/private bathrooms and changing rooms.
- Offer flexible hours so families can coordinate childcare.
- Provide workers with programs such as “The Builders Code” to prevent bullying/harassment.
- Have clear policies/procedures in place to address bullying/harassment.
Seeking to present pathways to construction careers is critical to bringing all groups into the industry, and offsetting stereotypes and lingering stigmas that have been traditionally applied to careers in the trades is essential.
As in the Ottawa program noted early, exposure and engagement of young people are key. The model seen in Europe starts the path to a trade career in high school where trades are celebrated as an avenue to a lucrative and successful place in the workforce and valued as a vital part of contributing to the economy.
Ontario is in the process of offering a transition into full-time apprenticeship programs at Grade 11 and allowing students/apprentices to secure a high school diploma concurrent with their journey to earn Red Seal certification. “Teens who enter the full-time apprenticeship programs, which take between two and five years, will be able to apply for their high school diplomas as mature students, the province says”
This is a move that has been long overdue and should be reviewed in terms of its success and opportunity to expand to all jurisdictions. If we wish to ensure that our sector has the resources, we need the engagement process to be accessible, remove obstacles, present a clear path for success and growth, and it has to be supported by those in the industry at all levels to offer the opportunity to work, learn, and be mentored by the experienced professional tradespeople, supervisors, and managers already in this career path.
QUICK BITES …
- A Special Housing report has been issued by Robert Hogue of RBC suggesting “the bottom of the Downturn is in sight” but notes that immigration will drive demand and that it is essential to ensure homebuilding increases throughput. Hogue offers: “The Canadian housing market correction has yet to run its course but it’s gradually letting up. We think activity will hit bottom sometime this spring. Prices will level out a few months later—provided the Bank of Canada is done raising interest rates. All told, our forecast calls for a 15% peak-to-trough decline in the national RPS Home Price Index. Roughly half of that is still to come.”
- A Fraser Institute article entitled Reality check—foreign buyers aren’t buying up B.C.’s housing stock, drills down on the myths and facts surrounding foreign ownership and investments and concludes that the majority of real estate investment and or speculation in the market stems from Canadian residents.
- In a bit of a game of numbers, we offer you the following: from The Tyee: Five things to know about BC’s Housing Plan; from Canadian Real Estate Magazine Three Ways the Federal Government Can Help Boost Housing Supply; from Storeys: BC Ministry of Housing Lays Out 5 Major Performance Targets, and from McKinsey: Six new imperatives for real estate players. 19 points to consider moving into a new week for housing in BC!!
- HAVAN member Adera Developments is recognized for its leadership role in mass timber construction for having delivered over 500 units of a 1000-unit commitment in this genre in SiteNews. Adera CEO Rocky Sethi says, “he appreciates support for mass timber construction from the province, …[but] he believes more can be done by various levels of government to create lasting results.”, and Sethi adds, “Metro Vancouver is in the midst of a housing crisis, and developing new communities with mass timber allows for the faster creation of housing supply while leaving a more sustainable impact on the homebuilding landscape than traditional building materials…”
- The Province profiling the insights of longtime HAVAN member Polygon Homes’ Michael Audain, shares his view of the housing crisis we are experiencing. Michael notes “ … believes greater density is essential to provide housing for B.C.’s rapidly growing population. He strongly supports high immigration levels and believes governments should abolish single-family zoning across the province, making it possible for all owners to build at least two dwellings on their properties …” and notes that demand-side measures like the spec tax and vacancy tax on housing, “… is not helpful because it makes it[housing] more expensive. Like other developers, he argues the answer to the housing crisis is more supply”.
- We are very pleased to share the news that HAVAN member and immediate past HAVAN Board Chair Randy Chin, of RBC, has been appointed by the CHBA-BC Board of Directors as the 1st Vice-president of the Board, and as such will rise to the position of President of CHBA-BC on May 19, 2023, succeeding Cassidy DeVeere, of 3rd Generation Homes, from Kelowna. Please see this news release, and join us in congratulating Randy on his appointment.
- The Women’s Council in partnership with E&T’s Technical Advisory Group toured Weyerhaeuser’s plant in honour of International Women’s Day last Wednesday. The tour was led by Trus Joist – Weyerhaeuser key representatives Preeti Chawla, Mill Manager, Merle de Castro, Territory Manager, Clara Fraese, Territory Manager, and Neda Naderi, EIT. These four women shared their stories about empowerment in their roles and industry, and lead attendees on the plant tour. Check out the photos.
- The finalists of the 14th annual HAVAN Awards for Housing Excellence were announced at the Hollywood theater on March 9, with a total of 101 builders, renovators, and designers looking for a win in 54 categories showcasing the best work of our members. Presented by FortisBC, the event was attended by over 270 members, families, and friends in the iconic art deco Hollywood Theater. Attendees enjoyed networking with a great vibe, delicious appies, and an ice cream station, compliments of Trail Appliances. We look forward to the announcement of the winners at the HAVAN Awards Gala at the JW Marriot Parq Hotel on April 22, 2023. Tickets are on sale now. Thanks to Wendy McNeil, Justine Nadia, and the whole HAVAN team for a first-class event!
- The Vancouver Sun picked up the story of the HAVAN Awards and featured the finalists’ reveal in an article/pics that highlights a selection of finalists, quotes from yours truly, and notes that award categories now include Best Environmental Initiative, and Best Infill Development to recognize industry and regulatory authorities embracing actions, codes, and by-laws to address climate change, and initiatives promoting gentle densification. HAVAN would like to thank all of the entrants, extend congratulations to all of the finalists, and wish you all the best of luck on April 22.
HAVAN continues to work with CHBA BC and CHBA to advocate for all levels of government to work together to address the challenges of the housing industry including zoning restrictions, density limits, and NIMBYism.
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