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Alberta home builders say construction jobs essential during COVID-19 crisis

New condominium units under construction, Calgary, Alberta on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. .
New condominium units under construction, Calgary, Alberta on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. . THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

Home builders across Alberta are watching and waiting to see if Alberta will deem construction crews and others in the industry as essential workers as Canada’s provinces react to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces in that province.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: All non-essential workplaces ordered to close in Ontario

“Ontario deemed home construction as an essential service and we are hopeful that the government of Alberta would make the same determination,” Laura Bruno, CEO, Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Edmonton Region said.

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Bruno said its members are adapting to the dynamic situation of COVID-19 — a situation that seems to change hourly.

“Job sites are still open,” Bruno said. “We are trying to ensure that the sites and communities are safe, projects move forward, and that Albertans needing to move into their homes, will be able to.”

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Bruno couldn’t say if any builders have shut down operations so far, but stressed residential construction is an essential service for providing homes and employment.

READ MORE: What is an essential service? After groceries, it depends where you live in Canada

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Edmonton Region estimated the residential construction industry employs nearly 118,000 jobs on and off-site in new home construction, renovations and repairs.

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“The industry is one of Alberta’s largest employers.”

Bruno noted there are thousands of Albertans depending on the industry to finish their homes in the coming days and weeks.

“Shelter is an absolute human necessity and it is imperative we continue our work to provide it,” stressed Bruno.

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Morrison Homes is still running its crews, but said everything in Edmonton has slowed down.

“It’s tough to know what to do next,” said Michael Hayes, a long-time employee with the home building company.

“Nobody wants to be out of work.”

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Hayes said the company’s office staff have been given the option to work from home and those manning show homes are taking necessary steps to ensure the protection of visitors.

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Hayes also said its trades-people are taking precautions, noting plumbers and other trades typically work alone or have small crews.

The Alberta Real Estate Association has banned open houses during the COVID-19 pandemic, asking its members to instead provide virtual tours and meetings online.