Construction workers badly needed to meet growing demand for housing in the Okanagan – Okanagan

Phase 1 of the Ariva construction project in West Kelowna, British Columbia, was recently completed, but the 38 luxury condo building took much longer than expected.

“A typical multifamily project would take maybe 15 to 17 months, so we’re double that,” said developer Kevin Johnson of Ariva Resorts.

While a variety of factors have contributed, including the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues, worker shortages have also led to delays.

“A lot of work, issues and challenges when it comes to work,” Johnson said. “It is difficult to recruit people here in the Okanagan who can carry out large projects like this. »

The labor shortage is so severe that it has impacted Phase 2 of what will ultimately be a five-phase project.

“We’re in our phase 2, which has started and we’ve had to put things on hold,” Johnson told PKBNEWS.

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Fewer workers means higher construction costs. So, despite the start of construction on Phase 2, work on the project has had to be halted for the time being.

“We were going to see a cost increase of at least 15 percent; we actually said 10 to 15 and then when we ran all the numbers we were more like 30 or 40 percent higher and so we had to kind of put things on pause,” Johnson said. “And we had to return the deposits and had difficult conversations with all the buyers and some people were really disappointed.”

Construction projects in the Okanagan can’t be completed quickly enough as the province faces a housing crisis, but industry players say it’s the labor crisis that must be resolved first.

“Everyone talks about the housing affordability crisis and just the housing construction crisis, but the bottom line of it all, which no one really talks about until the affordability crisis, is the labor shortage “work,” said Charlene Thomas, Okanagan’s chief executive officer. chapter of the Urban Development Institute (UDI).

While praising governments for cutting red tape to speed up construction, the UDI said these accelerated measures do not solve what is a bigger problem.

“Once all of this red tape and so on is eased, and all of the different policies and laws that the province puts in place…we’ll be able to build it quicker, but who’s building it? Who will build it? » asked Thomas.

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Earlier this year, the province implemented the Housing Supply Act, which gives the province the ability to set housing targets for municipalities to encourage them to remove local barriers to construction so that housing can be built more quickly.

This includes updating zoning regulations and streamlining development approval processes.

“There’s a lot of news coming out of the province and big announcements and things like that, and this is intended to help speed up or encourage municipalities to reduce approval times and that’s a really good thing, but I think what we’re missing is we need people to build all these projects and all this housing,” Johnson said.

“There are only so many drywallers in town, there are only so many electricians, there are only so many HVAC installers, and so we have to strengthening our workforce to achieve all this progress.

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Johnson said this is especially important in a rapidly growing region like the Okanagan, where innovative government and industry solutions are desperately needed.

“I think maybe there needs to be a paradigm shift that we need to treat workers better and give them a better work environment,” Johnson said. “And these are things we will need to do as an industry to attract and retain people.”

In the meantime, however, the wait for new housing will last far longer than the pace of construction.

“Things will progress and continue to move forward, but they will be much slower than we all would like and what we all need,” Thomas said.

According to the BC Construction Association, up to 40 per cent of construction workers will retire in the next decade.

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