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‘We Need More People’: Trudeau Lacks Workers for His Housing Fix

The president of a major Canadian real estate developer cautioned that a lack of workers could complicate construction as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans an ambitious fix to the housing crisis.

Workers on a condo building under construction in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday, April 7. 

Workers on a condo building under construction in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday, April 7. 

Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

One of Canada’s biggest real estate developers warned that a lack of skilled workers threatens to derail the country’s effort to tackle its housing affordability crisis. 

“We can’t build any more than we built in the last few years,” Michael Cooper, president of Dream Unlimited Corp., a Toronto-based real estate company, said of Canada’s housing industry. “If you want to have more units, we need more people to build.”

The country’s housing crisis, caused by a shortage of affordable units and soaring prices, has been a key focus for politicians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a plan to double the pace of new home construction over the next decade a centerpiece of his budget this year, and every major party in Ontario’s provincial election Thursday has promised to add more homes through various policy tweaks too.

But Canada has already been building at the fastest pace in seven decades, with the more than 20,000 apartment units to rent or buy that Dream has in its development pipeline a part of that. Despite the construction push, residential real estate values have soared about 50% through the pandemic with demand far outpacing supply. 

Now, Cooper says the industry, which has been contending with higher prices for building materials such as lumber and steel, is also facing a construction bottleneck because of a lack of skilled trades people to do the work. The labor shortage will take the most time to fix and whoever wins in Ontario’s election should make expanding skilled-trade education a priority, he said.  

Read more about how Canada’s housing market became a seller’s headache overnight.