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Prince George home builder sees housing construction crisis ahead

Building materials, mortgage rates and new building codes are adding to the cost of building a new home.
Prince George builder Allen Creuzot sees troubled times ahead for the local housing construction market.

Allen Creuzot has been building housing projects in Prince George for 45 years and the construction industry climate change he’s been seeing lately seems irreversible.

The price of building materials has skyrocketed, mortgage rates continue to increase and new building codes to raise energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are adding to the cost of building a new home.

“It’s going to be a real mess coming up soon,” said the Creuzot Homes owner. “We’re facing so many challenges it’s not even funny. From accessibility to money - banks are ignorant to deal with at times, they’re not easy to help out the building community at times. Every time I go to the wholesaler or lumber yard there’s cost increases that we incur that have to be passed on to the homeowner. It’s kind of gotten carried away.”

As a general contractor lining up work performed by tradesmen, there’s always uncertainty for Cruezot when he starts a building project because he never knows what the final bill for that work will be.

“You get a price today and it’s only good for 14 days,” he said. “They don’t even know what the price is going to be like tomorrow, so some of these trades don’t want to give you prices.”

Creuzot said lending institutions don’t like that uncertainty and the possibility a new home could cost more than originally estimated, which rules out some potential homeowners qualifying for mortgages.  

On May 1, a new BC Building Code took effect which requires most new buildings to have 20 per cent better energy efficiency than in 2018. The province also introduced its five-level Zero Carbon Step Code, which aims to create airtight buildings that supply their own energy needs with net-zero renewable energy by 2032.

“This is an extremely easy industry for governments to hit because it’s something that isn’t there yet, it’s not like used housing where they can give you incentives,” said Creuzot.

To meet those standards requires energy efficiencies such as triple-pane windows and heat pumps as a heating source. Some local homeowners who have switched to heat pumps are paying as much as $800 per month just to heat their homes.

“A heat pump or electric heat takes a lot longer to heat that home and it costs a lot more,” Creuzot said. “Provincially, they’re trying to get you away from natural gas to try to have everybody electrify - the city of Vancouver already has a ban and any new construction can’t have natural gas in it.

“In the Lower Mainland you may be able to heat your home really well and fairly efficiently with a heat pump, but in other parts of the province, such as here where we hit 40-below weather, we have totally different heat loads. Natural gas is still an efficient way to heat your home.

 “Now, what the (provincial and federal) governments are doing with the carbon tax is making it artificially look like natural gas is becoming less and less cost efficient. In actuality, gas is cheap, it’s all the taxes that are on there.”