Soaring lumber costs driven in part by pandemic-driven surge in demand are putting a squeeze on local builders and leading to construction delays, according to the Manitoba Builders’ Association.
According to numbers released by Statistics Canada Thursday, softwood lumber prices spiked at the fastest year-over year pace on record in March, jumping more than 118 per cent.
“We’re seeing in some cases double, in some cases triple the cost of lumber products,” said Lanny McKinnes, president and CEO of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.
“It’s definitely having an impact, not just in terms of escalating prices and rising costs, but also in terms of availability.
“And that’s causing some delays in terms of some of the construction going on.”
According to Statistics Canada’s Industrial Product Price Index (IPPI) April marked the fourth consecutive monthly increase for softwood lumber.
Across the country the construction price index was up 5.6 for residential buildings and 1.5 per cent for non-residential buildings in the first quarter of 2021, according to Stats Canada numbers.
But McKinnes says it’s not just the cost of lumber that’s causing problems for builders.
“We’re running into supply issues on a whole host of building materials. Even appliances are really in short supply and the demand is really high,” he said.
“So while lumber is kind of getting most of the focus, it is something that we’re seeing in other building materials as well.”
While demand for lumber is up in part thanks to homeowners looking at making improvements during the pandemic, the Western Retail Lumber Association says a housing boom, transportation challenges, forest fires, and even pine beetles have led to perfect storm of issues.
Association president Liz Kovach says COVID-19 has affected multiple aspects of the lumber industry.
“We’ve got a forestry industry that’s protected so there’s a limited amount of fibre that’s available, which has been sufficient to supply the market up until COVID, when the DIY market completely exploded,” she said.
And while Kovach says surging prices of wood have led to rise in reports of lumber thefts in the United States and other provinces, McKinnes says his members haven’t seen the trend here yet.
McKinnes says he also doesn’t see an end in sight for the high price of lumber.
“Right now, it looks like this is going to be something we’re going to be dealing with for for a while,” he said.
“Until the demand starts going back to normal levels, it’s probably something we’re going to see continuing on because we’re not hearing that manufacturers are really ramping up to try and meet that demand.”
–With files from Marney Blunt