Building sector will need time to get back on solid ground William.Sawchuk@niagaradailies.com 905-225-1630 | @bill_standard
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, OpenInNiagara.ca.”