TORONTO – New COVID-19 emergency measures in Ontario do not stop construction from continuing on many developments, including condos.
Ontario Housing Construction Council President Richard Lyall said the exemption is important because the province has not produced enough housing to meet demand.
But members of the provincial opposition said the policy is confusing and unclear.
New Democrat Jennifer French said the government should prioritize worker safety over keeping jobs open and act more quickly on other housing policies such as banning evictions.
Liberal Michael Coteau said he has no problem with ongoing construction if jobs are secure, but said his constituents question construction crews coming to their condominium buildings while being told to stay home.
If housing will be considered essential, as we have seen with the continued construction of houses, you know, then where is the facilitation of rent, or the forgiveness of rent? said the French.
The government is talking about restrictions, and yet .. if you skip the title, there are exceptions, exceptions, exceptions. That is why I want to make sure that they are really safe jobs. I want assurance for those families and workers that sick days will be available.
Promulgated Tuesday under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the rule that allows the construction of condos and other multi-purpose residential buildings is separated from the exemptions to allow ongoing construction for affordable housing, shelter, and charity.
Meanwhile, the new rules require construction companies to show that a building permit has been granted if they want to continue building single-family homes and townhouses.
Condos are a representative for rental housing in many areas, Lyall said, amid a shortage of rental buildings alone and policies that combine affordable housing into standard projects.
If the supply of houses – already in a deficit position – stops for a period of time, we can not compensate for that time, said Lyall, who noted that construction has slowed down from the need during the pandemic to evacuate workers.
While we are still building rented housing built – and there has been an increase in it – it is still far below other jurisdictions.
The rules are stricter than before and close to what was set in April 2020, which the Construction Industry and Land Development Association and the Ontario Home Builders Association said was necessary.
But based on the province announcement, many other jobs are allowed to stay open under the new rules. They include licensed construction projects, and any projects related to capacity building for schools, childcare, health care, long-term care, or security or reliability updates for transit, energy, mining, or justice projects beyond day-to-day maintenance.
Although specific regulations are still coming, the province announcement seems to allow support services for building internet services and critical construction activities for petrochemical plant projects that are already underway or are critical to maintenance and operations. Another exception allows construction to begin for Crown-funded projects or municipal governments.
The long list of exemptions for construction companies comes amid forecasts that 1,000 patients with COVID-19 could enter intensive care by early February. The provincial government said construction sites will be among the jobs targeted by future inspections aimed at enforcing its tight restrictions.
Less than one percent of the more than 10,000 WSIB COVID-19-related claims allowed so far are under construction.
Nineteen were in construction equipment construction, 16 were in foundation, structure and exterior construction, 12 were in building construction, eight were in specialized commercial construction and five were in infrastructure construction.
The office of Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labor, Training and Skills Development in Ontario, said there is evidence that the vast majority of employers and workers, including those in construction, are following the COVID-19 safety requirements when working.
When done safely, the delivery of critical infrastructure, housing and transit projects will help spur the province’s economic recovery, McNaughton’s office said.
But the Frenchman said politics lacks clarity and detail.
These details should always be wrong on the safety and health side and should not be a wish list for developers, the Frenchman said of the new construction policies announced this week.
I live in the Durham region, and we know very well about the pressure from the development industry and developers. Clearly, this government makes many decisions based on those pressures.
Lyall said the decision to keep many construction sites in place reflects a difficult situation for the government. But, he said, building and renovating homes also has the potential to improve tenants’ health by preventing accumulation and unsafe conditions. He said many of the condo units that are breaking ground today can accommodate people within the year.
The government is trying to insert the needle between the overloaded health care system and then the economy being destroyed, Lyall said. It’s a tough call. In terms of what is essential, we have always stated that housing is essential.
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