Dilapidated homes, leaky condos and crumbling mansions: Skilled trades shortage paints a bleak picture in Vancouver

By Lisa Tanh

A local tradesman is struggling to find help maintaining “normal family homes” because of Metro Vancouver’s extreme skilled trades shortage.

Breton Crellin, who has been working in construction for over a decade, said he’s constantly being flagged down for help on “normal family homes” — which he describes as homes without added features to increase their value.

“It’s gotten to the point that I can’t even pull weeds for a senior lady, without two of her neighbours asking if I can pick their fence or relay their pavers,” Crellin said. “One 80-year-old lady that I was working for got a notice in her mail from her strata saying, ‘If she didn’t get her garden in control, she’d be evicted.”

When Crellin asked his coworkers for help, they were “very dismissive” — despite the opportunity to earn extra income.

“They’re tired, exhausted [and] stressed,” Crellin said. “Their bosses are asking them for weekend work, their neighbors are asking them for weekend work. The trade shortage makes us all exhausted and stretched very thin.”

According to an Independent Contractors and Business Association survey[1]https://q053y1oyhx645cfec1k3q72w-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Con-Mon_winter2018_wagesurvey-FINAL.pdf, the competition for construction talent is “going to be even tougher” and that many trades shortages “have gone from bad to worse.”

Crellin said others in the construction industry are busy working on luxury homes and the “fast-food” of construction: towers and condos.

“We’re building more and faster now than we were in the pre-Olympic boom,” Crellin said. “And that’s not some multi-million academic study, that comes from the skilled men and women out there building.”

Crellin believes the high demand for luxury homes, the growing affordability issue, the previous government cuts to apprenticeship programs and the stigma against construction workers are to blame for the trade shortage. He fears that if these critical issues continue, it will lead to dilapidated family homes, leaky condos and crumbling mansions.

He added they’re the reason why he recently became the vice chairman for ProVancouver[2]https://www.provancouver.ca/, a centrist party that lists housing affordability as one of their four key platforms.

“ProVancouver shared my values, hopes and fears for Vancouver and it gave me a better choice than left or right,” Crellin said.

In March, the provincial government announced[3]https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018AEST0044-000483 they’ve invested $5.4 million to “increase the number of skilled workers in trades and technology.” But, the money went towards helping 15 public post-secondary institutions purchase equipment, such as computer labs and 3D printers.

“I have to point out not all trades build homes and a new computer lab and a 3D printer will do little for Vancouver’s housing crisis,” Crellin said. “That being said, it’s not enough money either, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.”

ThinkPol asked Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training on what the public can further expect from the announcement.

Jennifer Fernandes, spokesperson to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, said:

“Diversifying the skilled labour pool by providing affordable and accessible education for everyone who wants a good paying job in the trades or in tech will help meet labour demand for these sectors.

Over the next three years, the province will invest $15.8 billion in taxpayer-supported infrastructure throughout the province, supporting thousands of jobs during construction.”

Crellin hopes that by raising awareness at the high school level and by giving tradesmen affordable places to live — near the homes they’re building — will alleviate the trade shortage.

“No one is talking about the effect that the trade shortage is having on the maintenance of normal family homes,” Crellin said. “They’re becoming fixer uppers and worse.”

References   [ + ]

1. https://q053y1oyhx645cfec1k3q72w-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Con-Mon_winter2018_wagesurvey-FINAL.pdf
2. https://www.provancouver.ca/
3. https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018AEST0044-000483