Shortage of construction workers in Calgary can increase delays and home prices: experts

By Dione Wearmouth and Alejandro Melgar

Despite millions of government dollars being allocated to address housing, Calgary construction experts say a shortage of workers needed to build these homes could lead to delays and increased costs.

The Alberta government has allocated $16 million to update government housing units, then the City of Calgary put aside $25 million for student housing, and on Tuesday, the feds announced $20 billion to construct more rentals across the country.

But with a shortage of trades workers in Calgary, getting the work done might be a whole other issue.

Frano Cavar with the Calgary Construction Association, says developers are already struggling to find employees, and with the average journeyman being 57 years old and nearing retirement, things could get worse.

“We know there’s between 2,500 to 4,000 construction job vacancies in the Calgary job market right now, and nationally that number rises up to … 80,000,” he told CityNews.

“With that type of demand, it certainly could lead to project delays and project delays could lead to escalations in terms of prices.”

Between July and August, the average cost of a home shot up by $2,500 in the city, the highest increase reported out of the 10 major Canadian cities surveyed by

The City of Calgary approved its housing strategy on Sept. 16, which followed a housing report, released earlier in the month, that showed the cost to buy a detached home increased by 37 per cent in the last three years, but an income of $156,000 annually is needed to afford it.

Cavar says with a number of construction workers set to retire, the city has to look at this issue while working to making housing affordable.

“Our message to city council was you can change the policies all day long. But what happens when you don’t have the workers to actually fit some of the policy needs and objectives that you have?” he said.

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Brian Hahn, CEO of the Build Calgary, says developers are finding innovative ways to handle the issue.

“Our members continue to be creative in terms of drawing as many resources as they can into the Calgary market to respond to the demand,” he explained.

“Helping to get newcomers employed in our industry — particularly experienced newcomers — is also a key initiative for us.”

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Meanwhile, Cavar says there is a societal issue with entering the construction trade.

“Unfortunately, I find in North America, there is a bit of a stigma about entering construction in the skilled trades. And we’re working really hard to kind of change those perceptions,” he said.

“But I think in the long term, we need to have those societal conversations about enticing the trades and looking at it as a meaningful path by embracing our K-12 system to ensure that the trades are well represented in the curriculum.”

Both agree that exposing students to shop class and prospective trades careers will make a major impact on the shortage in years to come.

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