Housing supply

Construction strike risks worsening housing supply crisis

“We think it would be good to end it because we are already short of housing”: union boss

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As thousands of construction workers remain on strike, slowing residential home building, alarm bells are ringing about the potential worsening of an already tight housing supply.

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“It’s a setback and hopefully we can recover from it fairly quickly,” said Andrew Pariser, vice-chairman of the Home Builders Council of Ontario (RESCON). “We need to start working together again like we did during COVID to keep people safe and build the home Ontarians need.

A lack of adequate housing supply is blamed for an affordability crisis with house prices out of reach for many people.

The federal and provincial governments have promised to work to try to double the number of houses being built.

In the meantime, the picket lines continue.

Around 15,000 workers from the Workers’ International Union of North America are off work.

They do everything from high rise framing to flooring to installing tile.

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About 6,000 members of the International Union of Operations Engineers (IUOE) are also on strike.

Many are crane and heavy equipment operators.

Both unions want new contracts that take into account rampant inflation.

“We think it would be good to get this over with because we already have a housing shortage,” said Mike Gallagher, general manager of IUOE Local 793.

“The problem is that our members have rising costs – due to fuel costs to get to work.”

RESCON said that out of 30 contracts they have with their employee unions, 20 have been settled so far.

“The fact that 20 bands got deals suggests that I think we’ve figured out what the compensation should be,” Pariser said.

The construction strike comes as Ontario’s election campaign heats up.

Housing supply and affordability are major campaign issues.

The Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) launched what it calls the “Cut the ****” campaign to coincide with the election.

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“Over the next 10 years, we need to build at least one million new homes. In the past 10 years, we’ve only built 670,000,” the OHBA said.

“When we don’t build enough homes, prices go up dramatically and lead to the mess we’re in right now.”