Build­ing sec­tor will need time to get back on solid ground Wil­liam.Sawchuk@ni­a­garadailie­ 905-225-1630 | @bil­l_­s­tan­dard

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local - BILL SAWCHUK

It may take some time to get Ni­a­gara’s build­ing sec­tor back on track af­ter the COVID-19 cri­sis is un­der con­trol.

That was the mes­sage Rino Mostacci, Ni­a­gara Re­gion’s com­mis­sioner of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment ser­vices, had for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s plan­ning and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee.

Mostacci this week gave the com­mit­tee an up­date on how the post-pan­demic build­ing and de­vel­op­ment en­vi­ron­ment will shake out.

“The de­velop cy­cle ba­si­cally halted,” he said. “It is quite dif­fi­cult to re­sume ac­tiv­i­ties such as res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion in a short time frame.”

Mostacci said ramp­ing up ser­vic­ing con­tracts, geotech­ni­cal works, arche­o­log­i­cal works and nat­u­ral her­itage anal­y­sis won’t hap­pen overnight.

“We should an­tic­i­pate giv­ing some con­sid­er­a­tion to ex­tend­ing the con­struc­tion sea­son into the win­ter, and per­haps ask for some re­lief with road re­stric­tions so they can take ad­van­tage of favourable win­ter con­di­tions,” he said.

Mostacci said the depart­ment has been hear­ing from the de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try that the main con­cern once the prov­ince opens up is ac­cess to labour.

“Labour has al­ways been a chal­lenge for home builders in Ni­a­gara — and it will be likely ex­ac­er­bated to some de­gree as we move for­ward.

“The short­age of labour, com­bined with the pre­mium to ac­cess heavy con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als, might place a bur­den on af­ford­abil­ity in the re­gion. We will con­tinue to mon­i­tor that.”

Mostacci said the plan­ning and de­vel­op­men­tal ser­vices depart­ment is ad­just­ing well to mak­ing ser­vices avail­able on­line, in­clud­ing work on a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion por­tal pro­ject, “which is even more im­por­tant now than it ever has been.”

Ap­pli­ca­tions con­tinue to come in with only a mar­ginal de­crease, which is a good sign, he said. “Hope­fully, as things im­prove, we will get back to our an­tic­i­pated vol­umes.”

In her up­date to the com­mit­tee, Va­lerie Kuhns, act­ing director of the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, said her of­fice has re­fo­cussed in the wake of the pan­demic and the eco­nomic shut­down.

“As that work con­tin­ues, we are turn­ing our at­ten­tion to eco­nomic re­cov­ery, and praised the ef­forts of her team to adapt to the chang­ing con­di­tions,” Kuhns said.

“Ini­tially, the em­pha­sis was pro­vid­ing fast sup­port to our lo­cal com­pa­nies. We did this in col­lab­o­ra­tion with our lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment col­leagues and the rapid re­sponse team.”

She said with an­nounce­ments com­ing fast and fu­ri­ous in the early weeks of the shut­down, the depart­ment re­pur­posed a web­page to keep busi­nesses upto-date with the changes and es­tab­lished an email ac­cess point for ques­tions.

“We sur­veyed busi­nesses from across the re­gion so that we could un­der­stand the ini­tial im­pact of COVID-19,” Kuhns said. “All of that work is con­tin­u­ing ... we have also cre­ated an on­line busi­ness directory to pro­mote and help con­nect lo­cal busi­nesses and res­i­dents in Ni­a­gara, OpenInNi­a­”

Rino Mostacci

Va­lerie Kuhns

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