While there’s residual excitement for what a federal cash influx might mean for Calgary’s housing situation, some are worried about labour availability to build all the proposed homes.
On Tuesday, the federal government, along with the City of Calgary, announced $228 million over the next three years – should certain milestones be met – for the delivery of 6,800 homes in addition to what’s already being projected.
There’s already a labour shortage across Canada in the construction sector, even as construction is expected to remain strong nationwide. An April report by BuildForce Canada showed that by 2032, hiring requirements in the industry will exceed 299,000 due to the retirement of 245,000 people. They expect a growth in worker demand of 54,000.
The push for more homes and a tight labour supply worries Bill Black, president and Chief Operating Officer of the Calgary Construction Association.
“Based on the fact that both the commercial and residential sectors are challenged around having the labour to build in a good time, schedule, etcetera, I think we would have a concern as to how can we solve the labour issue as well,” he said.
“Otherwise, it may be hard to reach the numbers that they are looking for.”
Still, Brian Hahn, CEO of BILD Calgary Region, said that the announced funding is beneficial for the city and has to boost housing supply in Calgary.
“The key that unlocks affordability is the availability of supply of housing and [the] key to that is the supply of labour,” he said.
Hahn also said that he has faith the industry will find new and innovative ways to meet both the labour and housing demand.
“I’m optimistic about the industry’s resourcefulness and innovation to respond to the increased demand. That’s driven primarily by immigration, both international immigration and inter-provincial immigration to Calgary,” said Hahn.
Immigration to Alberta a key to labour woes
Canada’s Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, MP Sean Fraser said on Tuesday that one of the strategies labour is targeting immigration programs to make sure they’re identifying people who have the skills that we need and creating pathways for them to come to Calgary.
“One example would be the move towards a category-based selection model that we adopted earlier in the year. That has dedicated pathways under the Federal Express Entry System for skilled workers who have the ability to contribute their skills to homebuilding in Canada,” said Minster Fraser.
Black said that the industry has immigration initiatives in place. Amending the points system is important so that people with construction skills and professional skills can more easily enter Canada. Hahn said they’re also working with different groups to expedite skill development.
“Our association and our members are continuing to work with immigration societies to help those newcomers to Calgary get up to speed in the types of skills they need to be productive folks within the various jobs that are available in our industry,” he said.
Over the longer term, Black said we have to think about the schools closer to home and the fact that unfortunately, we teach young people that construction is a second-rate career.
“We’ve been doing that for 30 or more years. We’ve really discouraged people from looking at construction as a possible career,” he said.
“We also have to rethink at the societal level how we value construction careers and how important they are so that we can encourage more people to pursue a career in construction.