Conference Board Of Canada Says More Immigration Needed To Resolve Housing Crisis

Conference Board Of Canada Says More Immigration Needed To Resolve Housing Crisis
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Canada must boost immigration and bring in more workers needed to build the housing Canadians need, an independent research organization says.

“Construction of new homes is critical to addressing housing affordability and availability in Canada but persistent labour shortages is one of the obstacles slowing progress,” says Stefan Fournier, executive director of the Conference Board of Canada.

“Allocating a small number of immigration places within the existing immigration levels plan to occupations that are core to residential construction could mitigate labour shortages and advance the building of new homes.”

In its latest report, Work In Progress: How Immigration Can Address Labour Shortages In Residential Construction, the Conference Board lays out five recommendations for the Canadian government to resolve the perceived housing crisis.

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Those recommendations highlight the need of immigration to build up Canada’s workforce and include:

  1. Ensure that immigration programs support an expanded supply of workers with experience in the trades, such as occupations in residential construction.
  2. Monitor outcomes in category-based selection and the pilot for out-of-status construction workers
  3. Create a pilot immigration program for people with experience as construction trades helpers and labourers.
  4. Reduce barriers to licensing in regulated professions.
  5. Work with employers to improve credential recognition for all occupations.

Michael Bourque, chief executive officer at the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) which collaborated on the report along with the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) and Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), says more immigrants are needed to build the housing Canadians need.

“Each day we see the impact that a lack of housing supply is having on Canadians from coast to coast,” says Bourque.

“Without policy intervention, Canada will not have the workers required to meet its ambitious homebuilding targets and Canadians will continue to face challenges whether they are looking to purchase or rent a home.”

Construction Industry Facing 12,000-Worker Shortage Annually Without Immigration

Ottawa estimates 3.5 million homes need to be built over the coming six years with Canada’s residential construction industry to grow 15 per cent during that period but that could result in a structural labour shortage of 12,000 jobs per year on average.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has already bemoaned the paucity of people to build homes in Canada, tweeting about the problem in August.

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“With provinces like Ontario needing 100,000 workers to meet their housing demands, it is clear that immigration will play a strong role in creating more homes for Canadians,” Miller tweeted in response to a Global News report that month. “Canada is losing ten of thousands of construction jobs.”

Among the ways, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is trying to meet that need for skilled labourers in the construction industry is through occupation-targeted draws which were announced in May this year.

Among the 82 occupations which now qualify for permanent residence here through occupation-targeted Express Entry system draws are 10 which directly contribute to the construction of housing in Canada, including:

The flagship Express Entry selection system had previously only conducted draws based on immigration programs, not by targeting specific occupations.

Candidates hoping to immigrate through Express Entry occupation-targeted draws will need at least six months of continuous work experience in Canada or abroad within the past three years in one of these occupations to be eligible, experience that can have been gained while working in Canada as temporary foreign workers with a work permits or as an international student with a student visa.

Under the changes announced at the end of May, the Express Entry streams, including the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as well as parts of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are now more responsive to labour market needs.

Occupation-Targeted Express Entry Draws Eyed As Solution To Resolve Labour Shortages

“Everywhere I go, I’ve heard loud and clear from employers across the country who are experiencing chronic labour shortages,” said then-Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

“These changes to the Express Entry system will ensure that they have the skilled workers they need to grow and succeed.  We can also grow our economy and help businesses with labour shortages while also increasing the number of French-proficient candidates to help ensure the vitality of French-speaking communities.”

Canada first signalled its intention to start occupation-specific draws through Express Entry in June last year, when changes were made to the Immigration, Refugee and Protection Act to allow invitations based on occupations and other attributes, such as language ability.

The majority of Canada’s provinces have been issuing occupation-specific invitations for several years.

Under the changes to the act, the immigration minister is required to consult provinces and territories, members of industry, unions, employers, workers, worker advocacy groups, settlement provider organizations, and immigration researchers and practitioners, before announcing new categories.

IRCC must also report to parliament each year on the categories that were chosen and the reason for the choices.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) says the number of occupations facing shortages doubled between 2019 and 2021. From 2018 to 2022, federal high skilled admissions accounted for between 34 and 40 per cent of overall French-speaking admissions outside Quebec, which manages its own immigration intake.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.