Canadian Contractor

Construction workers forced to deal with COVID-19 fallout


December 1, 2020
By Rachel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/The Eastern Graphic

Randy Mitchell, part-owner of Anchored Construction in Belle River, looks forward to the day when he can get permits to start new projects. Along with other construction workers he sees that, even with the permits, he’ll have new challenges to face in the fallout of COVID-19.

“An issue I think we’re going to see is the availability of products like trusses and window deliveries, the kind of key items to keep the homes going,” Mr Mitchell said.

He has seen manufacturers across the country close down or reduce their output to a minimum over the past month or so. He also expects construction crews to start working at full capacity as soon as they can, to try to catch up on delayed work and to start new projects. He expects the demand may surpass the supply of materials needed.

Darren McKenzie, who owns McKenzie Builder Service Ltd and Legacy Homes, based out of Eglington has already been running into problems sourcing products due to plant closures and shutdowns.

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Mr McKenzie has particularly had issues getting the prefabricated modular mini homes he imports from out of province through Maple Leaf Homes and Apex Homes.

“I might have had six houses I was supposed to have set up for the first of May,” says Mr McKenzie, “but now the plant was shut down for two weeks or they’re only working at a 25 per cent capacity because of the safe distancing that’s required. Houses I’m supposed to have in May, aren’t coming until the middle of July.”

Mr Mitchell and Mr McKenzie have both been busy with work they have been able to complete regardless of limitations caused by COVID-19.

“We are fortunate we still have projects that are ongoing,” says Mr McKenzie, who hasn’t had to lay off any of his employees due to a shortage of work.

Mr McKenzie says before COVID-19 affected the industry, his schedule had been booked up for the next two years.

“Now we’re starting to price jobs we can do right away as we’re waiting for the other projects to get going.”

“All that work we had this spring will be pushed back to summer but we’ll also have our summer work so yeah, things are supposed to be pretty chaotic,” says Mr McKenzie.

Mr Mitchell also has projects he can work on despite limitations.

“We’re still able to do steel roofs and vinyl siding. Anything on the exterior of the home. But our large projects are definitely on hold.”

“We had new houses to start to build. We have a house to build in Brooklyn right now but with the permits on hold we can’t start those projects.”

Mr Mitchell says, for this reason, his projects might get pushed forward and the work he planned for early fall might be pushed back to late fall or early winter.

“We could run into some problems there,” he says.

An unknown to Mr McKenzie and Mr Mitchell right now is who will be able to go ahead with the projects on their radars.

Mr McKenzie says he has been in a situation where he has started to build a house but now the future homeowner has gotten information from the bank saying they can’t close their mortgage because they are temporarily laid off.

“Basically I can finish the house, but they can’t pay me or move in until they go back to work,” says Mr McKenzie. “So it leaves us on the hook for carrying the weight of all those costs until they’re allowed to go back to work – if that company they work for actually survives.”

Mr Mitchell also had plans to build some cottages and second homes.

“Now they’re very iffy.”

He says some of the potential buyers have lost a good portion of their RRSP funds or other retirement funds when markets crashed.

“They thought they were in the place to buy a second home or a cottage but they’re not there anymore, the money just vanished,” says Mr Mitchell.

He thinks this type of occurrence might also be seen for smaller projects this year.

“People who thought they could put on a new deck, well now they’re not so sure.”

 


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