Residential builders, renovators can complete projects, but not start new ones

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Most Ontario residential construction, whether it be single family homes, renovations, and high rise condos, can continue, as long as the foundations are in the ground under provincial essential services rules. However, they cannot start new projects and some contractors say they are having trouble with workforce and supply chain logistics in continuing with existing projects.

“We are pleased by the government’s decision to keep certain residential construction going,” says Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). “As the Premier has rightly noted, there are many people who are waiting for their homes to be finished in the next few weeks. We already have a significant housing crisis in Ontario and most of these homeowners who have sold their homes are at risk of being left on the street without these measures.”

RESCON said in a statement on Friday that it has and will continue to emphasize that companies must meet the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development construction standards or simply not operate. Site safety is the builders’ responsibility and they must work with everyone on the construction site including sub-trades, labour unions and workers to ensure all workers and sites are safe.

“Safety has and always will be the industry’s top priority,” RESCON vice-president Andrew Pariser said. “The Occupational Health and Safety Act allows workers to refuse unsafe work, but also mandates Joint Health and Safety committees, an avenue for workers and management to address safety concerns at an early stage. Our goal is to address safety issues (COVID-19 related or not) through communication and teamwork before they become a hazard.”

“RESCON stands with frontline workers and everyone who is helping Ontarians get through these difficult times,” the organization said. “We will continue to work with the provincial government and industry partners to ensure that construction work continues in a responsible and suitable way.”

However, Ottawa renovation contractor Steve Barkhouse, president of Amsted Design-Build, said that even though his company can continue its 19 current projects under essential work regulations, he expects to discuss closing down existing projects with his clients.

“We’ve tried to fight the good fight,” Barkhouse told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). “(But) Premier Ford made it pretty clear that he wants people at home, and that we’re going to step it up another notch. And we’re taking that to heart.”

Barkhouse said it’s become difficult to manage projects as physical distancing measures took their toll on the industry.

“Small companies that we work with, subcontractors and cabinet makers and things like that, were slowly shutting down because they weren’t able to get materials, or their staff weren’t comfortable crossing the border or travelling,” he said.

These problems have been compounded by Quebec’s shutdown of the construction industry two weeks ago, which has led to disruptions in the supply chains Amsted relies on for windows, cabinets and other building materials.

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