By Jensen, Randy on May 28, 2020.
While not suffering as much as other industries which were forced to close by provincial order during the COVID-19 pandemic, the home construction industry has nonetheless taken a significant hit, says Bridget Mearns, executive officer for BILD Lethbridge Region, and could use some additional support from all levels of government including the City of Lethbridge.
“Housing starts are down (28 per cent on single-family dwellings) so far this year, and that is to be expected given that everyone has sort of hit the pause button,” says Mearns, who spoke to the Communities Issues Committee of city council on Monday. “What we are saying is reset and recover so we are all taking our time to see what that looks like moving forward. This is also a great opportunity to look at, internally, how things work, and working with City administration, how do we get stronger? Not just today, but long term.”
BILD outlines several steps the City could take on its end to reduce company costs and bureaucratic red tape such as reviewing its offsite levy policy, working with industry on payment options to assist with liquidity and cashflow, and reviewing design standards in subdivisions to increase the availability of developable land.
“Anything that affects the cost of land, or affects the cost of building a house, obviously affects affordability and people’s abilities to purchase new homes,” summarizes Mearns. “Working with the City on how we mitigate those costs or look at internal processes, anywhere there are barriers to development, making sure we are working together. Because ultimately it affects the growth and development of our city, and the affordability of our city.”
Mearns also added her voice to provincial BILD association representatives in calling on the province to bring in measures to help stimulate the industry coming into the summer months.
“One of the things that are coming from the provincial level of the association is the idea of a renovation tax credit,” she explains. “What this does is allow people to renovate and stay in the homes that they want to stay in but also which meets their needs. This obviously also spurs the economy, increases values of homes in our city, but it also makes sure anybody who is renovating keeps it out of the underground economy so consumers are protected from fraudulent companies or unprofessional work.”
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