On-Site Magazine

Canada needs workers to reach housing targets

By Adam Freill   

Construction Infrastructure Labour Residential

Increasing the supply of new housing units will require significant increases in Canada’s construction labour force, says BuildForce Canada.

Meeting Canada’s housing supply targets to help improve affordability will require the construction industry’s residential and non-residential labour forces to grow significantly over the next decade, says BuildForce Canada.

(Image source: BuildForce Canada)

In its recently released Residential Scenario Outlook, 2024 to 2033 report, the national industry-led construction organization explained that the residential construction sector will need to grow its labour force by 83 per cent above 2023 levels, to just under 1.04 million workers, for the construction industry to be able to address the housing supply gap identified by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). CMHC estimates that target to be million additional housing units this decade over and above what Canada’s construction industry normally builds.

Meanwhile, the non-residential construction sector, which builds and installs the essential infrastructure such as roads and sewers that support the construction of new housing, will need to expand its labour force by an additional 19 per cent above 2023 levels.

“Our report models two scenarios. Our baseline scenario tracks the impacts on the residential construction labour force under business-as-usual conditions. Our alternative scenario models the impacts on the labour force created by the drive to achieve federal housing affordability targets,” stated Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada. “Achieving the targets described in the alternative scenario would require a significant increase in the annual rate of housing starts over the next decade. This increase would be set to occur in an environment where the construction sector is already struggling in terms of labour to keep up with current demand levels.”


Under the alternative scenario, where housing starts increase by 149 per cent above baseline levels over the next 10 years to meet affordability goals. Housing starts will rise from just over 233,000 units in 2023 to approximately 662,000 units by 2033.

The impacts of this increase will be felt most in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, where the housing affordability gaps are greatest. Each province would require a doubling or near-doubling of their respective residential construction labour forces to accommodate the projected growth.

“Canada’s construction labour markets are already operating under challenging conditions,” explained Ferreira. “Meeting these ambitious new-housing targets will depend on the industry’s ability to ensure a balanced and sustainable approach to labour force development and resource allocation.”

“Meeting the workforce demands to address housing affordability over the next decade will require targeted and monumental recruitment efforts from industry, trades schools, and government,” said Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. “We need to continue to actively recruit Canadians into the skilled trades and residential construction sector, reform the immigration system to allow in new Canadians who have the skills and aptitude to build homes, and bolster innovation and support productivity through de-risking investment in factory-built systems.”




Stories continue below