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Retirements, lack of labourers slows B.C. home construction, raises prices

Builders work on a new home in North Vancouver, B.C. Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian Home Builders Association of BC says its beginning to see a 'grey tsunami'

Older skilled workers are beginning to retire, fewer young people are looking at skilled trades as a potential career

Lack of available workers on-site is slowing down projects, which is pushing up construction costs, says association

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the cost of home ownership in Metro Vancouver and many other parts of the province continues to overwhelm would-be buyers, a new concern is beginning to creep into the home construction sector: a lack of skilled labourers.

The Canadian Home Builders Association of BC says it is beginning to see a “grey tsunami,” with older skilled workers beginning to retire, and fewer young people looking at the skilled trades as a potential career option.

“Over 60 per cent of our members responded [to a survey done in the spring], noting that skilled trades and labour shortages were presenting challenges to the housing projects. And in particular, they’re having challenges with securing skilled trades in the likes of carpenters, dry wallers, general contractors,” says Carmina Tupe, director of Policy and Government Relations with the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC.

Tupe also says there are other factors which are likely to continue dragging down the time it takes to build new homes.

“We saw during the pandemic that there has been a decline in new apprentice registrations from 2019,” she notes. “It is likely that we will continue to experience a skilled trade shortage in the foreseeable future.”

She says while difficult to quantify, Tupe notes the lack of available workers on-site is slowing down projects, which is pushing up construction costs — and subsequently the purchase price of homes.

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Another area of concern is fewer people available on a municipal level to approve new housing projects.

“We are hearing a lot more reports right now that there aren’t enough building officials right now to process the applications for building permits, and to complete housing inspections,” says Tupe. “We understand that there is a lot of competition between municipalities for building officials. So there’s a lot of movement going around.”

The Canadian Home Builders Association of BC does say these concerns are on the radar in Victoria.

“A huge initiative that is coming forward from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training is the rollout of their Skilled Trades Certification Program,” notes Tupe.

Announced by the B.C. government as a potential policy in June, the Home Builders Association says it hopes this program — once eventually launched — could generate more interest among younger people in choosing the skilled trades as a career option.

“We’re really making sure the design of this doesn’t add anymore red tape or burden who want to join the trade, or those who are already working in those trades,” adds Tupe.