Construction industry says new bylaw changes will impact all

By Tyler Dunne

The Construction Association of Nova Scotia is frustrated by the outcome of the Halifax Regional Municipality's Community Planning Economic Development Standing Committee (CPED) meeting on June 16.
The HRM has changed the operating hours for construction projects from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., something the Construction Association of Nova Scotians says has detrimental implications.
Duncan Williams, the president and CEO of the association, says the changes will impact the housing affordability and attainability crisis. 
“It may sound simple enough, cutting seven and a half hours out of the work week to control noise, [and it] may not seem like a lot, but if you multiply that by 100 people on a site, you just removed 750 productive hours of time,” Williams said while speaking on The Todd Veinotte Show.

Williams explained that the changes would increase the development time by approximately 15 to 17 per cent – or another eight to 10 weeks on a year-long project site. 

And time to completion isn't the only aspect affected by the change. 

Williams says with increased time comes increased costs, and those costs will be passed on to buyers and renters. 

“It's the equipment that's rented and leased for a longer period of time, the carrying charges, the finance charges – all of these things go in, and we did an extrapolation of a 10 million dollar project with 25 units in it and essentially what it came out to was about 1.5-1.7 million dollar addition to that, and there's no value added,” Williams explained.

“It's going to add 68 thousand dollars to that individual unit, so that's going to get passed on to the consumer so that affordability just got pushed further out of reach for somebody in that particular market.”

When asked about the complaints that drove the municipality to move forward with the bylaw, Williams said the exact numbers are hard to nail down due to the unknown number of calls or emails councillors receive. 

But, Williams says the challenge with councillors being contacted is the circumvention of the system set up to manage complaints officially through 3-1-1 and bylaw enforcement. 

“If you look at the actual official stats that took us probably almost three years to get, as it was the best numbers that we have, is there [are] 150 complaints over a five year period that were construction related/and it works out to about one complaint for every 12.5 days.”

Williams says his association wasn't permitted a viable amount of time to address their concerns with city council before the bylaw came into effect. 

“We've been writing letters asking, begging frankly, to have a sit down with councillors and senior staff all in the room and constituents for over five years on this particular issue time and time again,” Williams said. 

“It's frustrating; it feels like we're speaking into the wind, and my biggest frustration here is the misalignment of policies and the short-sightedness.”

Williams says the passing of the bylaw couldn't have come at a worse time as the construction industry is moving through a housing crunch. 

“We're trying to work on affordability and getting more housing stock on the market,” said Williams.

“Now we've just taken another hammer to a problem that could have been handled with a fly swatter and exasperated the very problem we're trying to solve, which is the housing crisis and affordability,” Williams said. 

Williams says the biggest problem with how the city council passed the bylaw is the lack of collaboration between the construction industry and government. 

“We've got good examples of where we've worked very closely, industry and senior staff within the city, to solve problems,” Williams said. 

Williams explained how the industry worked closely with the city to create the construction mitigation plan, and it is a good example of how the two groups can work together to resolve the public's legitimate concerns. 

“I don't deny that having construction in your backyard is noisy, there's no question about it, but the reality is we are in a city that's growing and growing fairly rapidly, and if we are going to keep up with demand and provide decent quality housing we need to be looking at alignment of policies and priorities, and we need to make sure that council is following the rules that are there as well in terms of how complaints get addressed,” Williams expressed. 

Williams continued to say the demand for projects in the city won't halt overnight due to the changed bylaws, and they are fortunate to operate in a city where development is desirable and worth investment.

“But we are also in an environment where interest rates are going up, product supply and labour supply are not consistent, and those are big impactors already,” Williams said. 

“And to throw this on top of it, it's fuel on a fire that at some point you're going to have projects that just get tipped over in terms of they're not financially feasible anymore, or you're going to have contractors or developers who say it's just not worth the risk anymore.”

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