Home builders

Prince Edward Island homebuilders could be challenged by new federal housing spending

The federal government has proposed billions of dollars in new spending to make housing more affordable for Canadians, but Island homebuilders say more money won’t necessarily solve the problems.

Construction and renovation experts were in Charlottetown for the PEI Provincial Home Show this weekend, just days after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled the 2022 federal budget.

In the budget, the government set aside $10 billion over the next four years for housing, including $4 billion to accelerate new construction.

However, some construction workers say they are already struggling to keep up with demand in PEI.

“It wasn’t so crazy before COVID started,” said Oscar To of Legacy Homes. “Everything went crazy after that. We’re seeing more interest than before, especially from people from other provinces.”

To say that before the pandemic, you had to wait four months to build a house. Now it takes about a year.

He said a shortage of workers is the main reason.

“A lot of people leave PEI for other provinces because they get better wages,” he said. “[We need] as many as we can get.”

Some local entrepreneurs say they won’t be able to keep up.

“We’re stretching right now,” said Tim Wilson, who started Dream Big Home Design with his wife about a year ago. “For us as a company it’s not that bad yet, but I can definitely see it starting to [be] overwhelming pretty fast.”

“We’ve been very lucky to be very busy and a lot of houses just need painting and work,” said Hope DesRoche, who runs a painting business through the student work management program. “So I really think we should expand to meet that demand.”

Other housing-related measures announced in the budget include a new tax-free savings account for those looking to buy a home for the first time and a two-year ban on foreign investors looking to buy residential property.

Prince Edward Island housing advocates have said that while the proposals look good on paper, they won’t do much to improve housing affordability in the province.