Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the incorrect title for Stu Niebergall.
Regina City Council voted on Wednesday against a motion that would make sprinkler systems mandatory in all new residential dwellings — the latest issue to stir a lengthy debate.
The decision was met with pushback from the city’s housing industry.
City council heard from over 15 delegates both for and against the sprinkler bylaw.
Those against the sprinklers felt there was a lack of consultation and proper due diligence into the issue and encouraged city administration and council to come back with a more prudent and far-reaching study into the matter.
Those in favour of the bylaw cited safety and the prevention of deaths as vital reasons for their stance.
Professionals from across Regina’s housing industry rallied outside city hall before Wednesday’s meeting to call on council to deny the proposed motion to make fire sprinklers mandatory across all new residences. The group of landlords, homebuilders and realtors say the motion was understudied and that the costs would far outweigh the benefits.
“One of the things that we are at odds with, the sprinkler lobby, they keep suggesting that they can put this product into our homes for $5,000. We’ve gotten quotes from some of our local plumbing contractors and they’ve provided folks that are in that kind of $12,000 period,” Stu Niebergall, Regina and Region Home Builders’ Association, said.
If passed by city council, the new bylaw would have mandated sprinklers in all new residential buildings and compelled builders to give future homeowners an option to install a sprinkler system as part of their new building design.
New residential buildings include apartments, low-rise multi-family residential units, and one or two-unit homes.
Affordability was one factor the committee took into account when voting on the mandate. Mayor Sandra Masters was one of the two votes against the mandate during executive committee and said she kept residents in mind.
“We’ve heard from industry from both sides, but we haven’t heard from residents,” Masters said during executive committee. “So when it comes to housing affordability, I do know that that is the number one issue for the city of Regina residents. So this is attaching to the affordability that can have some significant implications in the community.”
“This is a question that was put in front of a specific task force at the national level, and it was struck down. It was presented in 2019 at the national level, and it was struck down. The cost-benefit analysis was simply not there,” Chris Guerrette, Sask. Realtors Association, said.
Another point of contention was that this motion was put forward by councillor Landon Mohl, who has installed sprinklers for 11 years and is the representative for the Plumbing and Pipefitters union, according to his bio on the city of Regina website.
Niebergall said he hoped that Mohl would excuse himself from the discussion but he did not.
He added that the city should do its due diligence in looking into the matter further before implementing something that has a huge impact.
Mohl was the only councillor who voted in favour of mandating sprinklers during the final vote.