After the wildfires: Inside the struggle to rebuild homes in Canada – National

Those who have lost their homes to wildfires in Canada may have a long wait ahead of them to have a new home.

Canada’s current housing crisis and construction labor shortages are affecting how quickly homes can be rebuilt, experts tell PKBNEWS.

“(Wildfires) are straining the system, including the construction and renovation sector,” said Glen McGillivray, chief executive of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR). The institute works to help Canadians deal with natural disasters.

“We still have houses that are not completely repaired. »

McGillivray said some homes hit by natural disasters a few years ago, including in Barrie, Ont., which experienced a tornado in 2021, are still unrepaired. Not to mention the town of Lytton, British Columbia, which was destroyed by a wildfire in 2021. McGillivray said rebuilding there has barely begun.

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Wildfires are also threatening hard-to-reach places, like Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. McGillivray said it’s more expensive to get materials there and to bring labor there as well.

Veteran Rob Pullen, left, and Warren Pullen, who were evacuated from their homes on Thursday due to wildfires, sit with their dogs outside their trailer in the parking lot of an evacuation center , in Kelowna, British Columbia, on August 19.


What delays repairs and reconstructions? Canada is already in the midst of a housing crisis and struggling to find labor to create more supply. Understandably, finding the labor to rebuild the homes from scratch has been a challenge and strains an already stressed system, McGillivray said.

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Justin Johnson, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of Nova Scotia, told PKBNEWS that part of the problem is that the commercial, residential and industrial sectors come from the same labor pool. work, which includes carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

“That’s why we are currently seeing a huge shortage of sk**led labor and sk**led trades,” he said.

“It’s just a pool that we all do well in. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough to do.

Cities are currently in the midst of a ma*sive drive to build new homes as supply has remained tight, driving up house prices. Johnson said most contractors are behind schedule by six months to a year, and some larger projects have been delayed due to labor shortages.

Compounding the labor shortage is an aging talent pool. Johnson said 50 to 60 percent of the commercial workforce will retire over the next decade. And while Canada looks to immigration to fill its labor shortage, finding talent and bringing it online also takes time.

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Furthermore, rebuilding destroyed communities is not an easy task.

Johnson said it essentially had to start from scratch, and doing the foundation work can be complex to get a permit and workers focused on that process have been busy with commercial industry and are hard to find. However, delays in this part of the job delay further work, such as electrical and plumbing, which cannot be completed until these initial steps are taken care of.

“These initial steps will be the ones that will delay the process, and unfortunately they are the most resource intensive right now,” Johnson said.

Then, once the plans are in place, there are also bureaucratic hurdles to jump through, like figuring out what the insurance can cover and getting that approved.

The McDougall Creek Wildfire burns on a mountainside above a lakeside home in West Kelowna, B.C. Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.


Felix von Vegesack lost his home in Killiney Beach, British Columbia, to a wildfire in 2021. Two years later, the building has still not been rebuilt and he says he is overwhelmed with paperwork, including studies environmental and geotechnical.

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“Disgusting. It’s just disgusting,” he told PKBNEWS earlier in August. “I finally got my documents. I have report after report after report.

“Just hire your lawyer immediately. Get a signed contract with a contractor. Don’t worry about the bidding process. You must hire a contractor immediately.

Meanwhile, families have been displaced and are living wherever they can until their new homes are built, which can be a huge challenge, Johnson said, as they compete with others who are doing their purchases in a limited real estate market.

Other options, such as modular housing, are being explored to build homes faster, he said.

“(The wildfires) couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Johnson said. “We were already in crisis.”

– with files from Alyssa Julie, Simon Little and Christa Dao of PKBNEWS.

&copy 2023 PKBNEWS, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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