Metro Vancouver pushes for prefab homes
September 13, 2023
My Lane Homes, Burnaby, B.C
During a housing supply crisis and a looming shortage of construction worker, Metro Vancouver has endorsed a plan to promote prefabricated construction of multi-family buildings.
"This is a huge opportunity to deal an ace card for British Columbia,” said Alex Boston, executive director of the Renewable Cities program at Simon Fraser University.
Boston was addressing a September 7 meeting of Metro Vancouver directors ahead of a report calling for the formation of an off-site rental home construction industry.
Boston, whose group advocates for prefabricated mass timber construction, called for swifter government policy planning to spur off-site construction of prefabricated homes.
Boston said about 40,000 construction workers will be lost to retirement in the coming decade and it’s unlikely they will all be replaced.
So, one solution, said Boston, may be to create construction efficiencies: building multiple complexes elsewhere and moving them on to a site for quick assembly, not unlike modular homes.
But to do so, Boston notes the province needs to establish an industry that will supply this demand; essentially, government will need to stimulate the demand by contracting with existing and new prefabrication construction companies. Once established, a stream of construction will begin for non-market rental homes that will spill over into the private sector.
Metro Vancouver directors accepted the report, which calls for Metro Vancouver and the provincial government to coordinate a plan with municipalities.
Currently, only 4 per cent of residential construction in B.C. is factory-built. Some critics note it could take four to five years to ramp up prefabricated construction to make a difference to housing costs and supply.