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Labour shortage biggest bottleneck in housing crunch: report

By Brad Perry May 17, 2023 | 1:30 PM

A new discussion paper is shedding light on some of the challenges facing the housing market in New Brunswick.

Written by Moncton-based economist Richard Saillant, the paper was commissioned by the Housing Hub of New Brunswick.

It is a non-profit housing hub which aims to partner with and drive affordable housing solutions.

Saillant said an exploding population in our province is creating extraordinary demand for housing, and the supply simply cannot keep up.

The province’s population surged to 825,000 people as of the first quarter of 2023 — 45,000 more than at the start of the pandemic.

“The last time that we saw the population grow as fast or nearly as fast as what we’re seeing today, the number of housing units being built was well above what it is right now,” said Saillant.

Saillant points to the “severe” labour shortage in the construction industry as being the most important bottleneck in expanding our housing supply.

Despite a growing population, the workforce pool remains stagnant, with developers struggling to recruit new workers.

And with one-third of workers in the construction industry aged 55 and over, the need to address the labour shortage is even more critical.

“The greatest opportunity lies in tailoring our immigration strategy so that more and more people coming to New Brunswick are well equipped or can be quickly trained to contribute to housing construction,” said Saillant.

Saillant said while construction activity has responded to growing demand, much of this response so far has been concentrated at the higher end of the condo and apartment segment in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton.

Outside of the three larger centres, he said construction activity has been lower despite the fact the population is also growing in those communities.

“If New Brunswick is to live up to its potential as a growing and inclusive place, we will need to dramatically scale up activity so that all our current and future residents can be adequately housed,” said Saillant.

The paper is the first of two set to be released to provide an independent analysis of the challenges in New Brunswick’s current and future housing market.

They will be followed by a third and final paper by the Housing Hub and its partners focused on possible solutions for the province to consider in their upcoming housing strategy.

You can view the paper by clicking here.

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