Canada ‘absolutely’ can’t build more houses without more immigrants, minister says

Click to play video: 'Freeland says solutions for housing crisis are ‘simple to say, hard to accomplish’'
Freeland says solutions for housing crisis are ‘simple to say, hard to accomplish’
Speaking to reporters in Toronto on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the housing affordability issue. While talking about how a home saving account is a way to help first-time homeowners buy a house, she reiterated that solutions to housing issues are often easy to say but 'hard to accomplish.' – Aug 10, 2023

Canada’s housing crisis “absolutely cannot” be solved without the aid of new immigrants who bring their skills here, Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters on Friday.

“The federal government is making housing more affordable and bringing in the skilled workers required to build more homes,” Miller said in Montreal.

“Without those skilled workers coming from outside Canada, we absolutely cannot build the homes and meet the demand that exists currently today.”

Miller was asked by reporters if he was considering slashing Canada’s immigration targets, which are currently at historic highs, in response to a recent Bank of Canada report that new immigrants are adding to housing demand.

The minister said he was not.

“People coming to this country are resourceful. When they bring capital, they are able to acquire houses,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“If people are asking us to slash, what does that mean? Does that mean slashing the skilled workers that we need to actually build those houses? Slash family reunification, which can be devastating for the mental health and well-being of the families that are already here?”

Click to play video: 'Canada’s population just hit the 40-million milestone'
Canada’s population just hit the 40-million milestone

Canada aims to welcome 451,000 new immigrants in 2024.

By 2025, the number is expected to go up to 500,000 new immigrants in one year.

Miller said around 60 per cent of new immigrants to Canada are economic migrants, many of whom are the kind of skilled workers needed to build more housing. Family reunification visas account for around 20 per cent of those migrating. The rest, he said, are refugees and asylum seekers.

“We have a humanitarian duty towards people that are fleeing war and persecution,” Miller said.

Story continues below advertisement

Last week, a spokesperson from Miller’s office told Global News that fulfilling Canada’s labour shortages is one of his key priorities, and a key goal of the government’s immigration targets.

“Strategies like Express Entry, and the historic Immigration Levels Plan, which is largely made up of economic migrants, are a great asset to our nation as they will directly help combat the ongoing labour shortage. This is especially true when it comes to the housing sector,” Bahoz Dara Aziz, press secretary to the immigration minister, told Global News.

“With provinces like Ontario needing 100,000 workers to meet their housing demands, it is clear that immigration will play a strong role in creating more homes for Canadians.”

The federal government increased its immigration targets in November 2022, and Miller has suggested those targets may need to keep rising.

Click to play video: 'Why automation could hold the key to solving Canada’s housing crisis'
Why automation could hold the key to solving Canada’s housing crisis

The construction industry is short tens of thousands of workers, and experts say a coming wave of retirements could make the problem worse.

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, Canada is millions of homes behind what’s needed to reach housing affordability this decade.

Click to play video: 'Lack of skilled trades workers worsening N.B. housing crisis: report'
Lack of skilled trades workers worsening N.B. housing crisis: report

The job vacancy rate in construction is at a record high with around 80,000 vacancies in the industry,  CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal said in a recent note. 

Those vacancies, which push up building costs and impede productivity, come at a time when the residential construction industry is under pressure to meet the demands of a growing population.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. forecasts a need for 3.5 million more homes by 2030 than the country is currently on track to build.

The number of new homes built, however, has been in decline, from just over 271,000 in 2021 to 260,000 in 2022. And in May this year, the annual pace of housing starts dropped 23 per cent month over month, leading the CMHC’s chief economist to predict that just 210,000 to 220,000 new homes will be built by the end of the year.

Story continues below advertisement

Last week, the federal government launched a separate stream of entry for newcomers with work experience in skilled trades.

“It’s absolutely critical to address the shortage of skilled trades workers in our country, and part of the solution is helping the construction sector find and maintain the workers it needs,” Miller said in a statement, making his first major announcement as Canada’s new immigration minister.

Click to play video: 'Canada expanding immigration in health-care sector'
Canada expanding immigration in health-care sector

“This round of category-based selection recognizes these skilled trades workers as essential, and I look forward to welcoming more of these talented individuals to Canada.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that by welcoming people in skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing and welding, Canada can help its construction sector attract skilled workers.

But there remain questions about how the government can ensure those bringing the skill set to work in construction actually end up working in the sector and are able to navigate the certifications processes across the country.

Story continues below advertisement

— with files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content