by Stacy Dunn
Alicia Packwood, Executive Officer of the Canadian Home Builders Association – PEI recently met in Banff with her provincial counterparts at the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) national conference and Home Building Week in Canada.
Among the topics discussed was the National Building Code. “The proposed changes to the code will result in more efficient builds, and essentially all builds will be Net Zero in the coming years,” she says. A Net-Zero home generates as much energy as it uses.
“We also talked about code harmonization. Previously, when a change to the National Building Code is released, the provinces had up to five years to adopt it. CHBA sits on the Advisory Council for Harmonized Construction Codes and now has harmonization agreements in place across the country, PEI included.
“We have a strong focus on training in energy efficient builds,” Alicia says. “We offered training last year in partnership with efficiencyPEI, and over 50 builders and students from trades programs participated.”
CHBA-PEI is working to certify residential construction workers so that more Net Zero homes can be built. It is helping in the long certification process by offering step-by-step resources and removing barriers to the cost of training.
Residential construction employment
Atlantic Canada recorded a steady increase in housing starts in 2022. In 2022, the construction industry on PEI had a total of 6,383 workers. Of those on the residential side, 2,033 workers were building new houses, 620 were renovating homes, while 349 did maintenance.
However, the labour shortage in residential construction remains a challenge across PEI. An estimated 940 workers, or 14 percent of the current labour force, are expected to retire in the next few years. “The industry cannot afford to lose these workers,” Alicia says. “We are working on how we can replace all these people.”
She says many low or no cost training programs and on-the-job training opportunities are available, but there are not enough people to fill the gaps. A BuildForce report says in the next five years, employers will be competing even more to hire Construction Managers, Carpenters, Electricians, Plumbers, Drywallers, Painters and General Labourers. For example, BuildForce estimates that 189 certified Carpenters and 531 new entrants into carpentry will be needed.
The industry is looking at new ways to attract workers. Some CHBA-PEI members are working with immigration services to bring people to the province, and other members are using word-of-mouth, asking workers, friends, or family members if they know of someone.
“The industry is seeing more people taking on construction as a second career,” she says. “Employers are becoming more open to training on the job and may take on someone who hasn’t developed a specific skill set but is willing to learn.”
The association has a job board on its website to help members list their employment opportunities.
The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) is planning to offer an Adaptive Home Course for members. The program helps homeowners age in their own home. “The training looks at accessible features for new builds as well as renovations to existing homes.”
A certificate will be awarded to members who complete the course. “More people are seeing the importance of accessible homes as the population ages.”
Rising in the rankings In January 2023, CHBA released its 2022 Municipal Benchmarking Study, which looks at how local development processes, approvals, and charges affect housing affordability and housing supply in major housing markets across the country.
The study ranked Charlottetown second in the country. The city was ranked fifth in the same study in 2020.
The study ranked Charlottetown as having the fastest approval timeline of all the municipalities surveyed, at about 3.4 months from application completion to planning approval.
“The city’s planning features, approval timelines and government charges are improving and it’s good to see how it compares to larger municipalities across Canada with respect to population growth and housing prices.”