‘Left-field’ thinking needed as Marlborough ponders where to put workers

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An ’empty building audit’ is one of many solutions to the housing shortage of Marlborough workers that will likely be presented at a workshop next month.

The region faces a shortage of up to 1,800 workers next year as three major construction projects are underway; co-location of boys ‘and girls’ colleges, redevelopment of the Picton ferry terminal and a retirement village in Summerset.

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organization (BCITO) is working on regional reports to show the extent of the labor shortage in the country. Following a first industry workshop that ranked Marlborough’s top challenges in April, a second workshop later this month will examine possible solutions.

BCITO Insight and Innovation Director Mark Williams said an empty building audit was one of many solutions recommended for Otago, in their economic forecast last year, in the wake of a series of similar workshops.

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Like Marlborough, Otago was struggling to attract and accommodate skilled workers for major upcoming projects during a period of growth due to a housing shortage, he said.

“If housing is a problem, the empty house audit is certainly one of the solutions proposed for other regions, to see if there is a supply of empty buildings that could be better used.

In addition to ensuring a healthy work culture, employer support could include helping workers find housing and helping them connect to services such as schools and doctors, according to the Otago report.

Mark Williams, BCITO's Director of Insight and Innovation, says Marlborough is an interesting case study because it has a huge demand for labor for upcoming projects and a severe housing shortage, especially for short-term residents.

Provided

Mark Williams, BCITO’s Director of Insight and Innovation, says Marlborough is an interesting case study because it has a huge demand for labor for upcoming projects and a severe housing shortage, especially for short-term residents.

“There are potentially different solutions for people who are temporarily in the area, compared to those who migrate long term … This could include people in specific occupations that are only in demand for a very short term. , as well as people needed only during peak demand periods, ”the report said.

“For example, young and single people can look for shared accommodation, while families with children can look for a house to buy.”

Building new housing for workers could provide training opportunities for workers ahead of upcoming major projects, but using existing housing stock would avoid increasing demand for construction workers, the report said.

SCOTT HAMMOND / Stuff.co.nz

Alicia Moynihan began her apprenticeship in painting and decorating with the Building and Construction Industry Training Organization (BCITO).

This could include the use of places already developed for accommodation, such as outdoor education centers or boy scout camps, or it could mean the conversion of commercial or industrial buildings, or vacation homes that are mostly empty in low season.

Small houses were another option, although there is not yet clear national legislation on their use, or similar worker villages to those used to house workers in Kaikōura after the 2016 earthquake.

However, Williams said Otago has yet to follow the report’s recommendation to conduct an empty building audit.

Williams said there were other ‘more to the left’ ways to incentivize the conversion of empty buildings, such as an empty building tax, similar to that introduced by Vancouver City Council in 2016 on properties. empty residential units for more than six months of the year. , excluding principal residences, at 1 percent of the assessed value of the building in the first year.

An empty building audit for Marlborough could include residential properties that sit empty for half the year.  (Photo file)

BRYA INGRAM / STUFF

An empty building audit for Marlborough could include residential properties that sit empty for half the year. (Photo file)

“We hope to identify opportunities for the board to resolve these issues locally… if they proceed with any of these opportunities, it’s up to them to decide,” said Williams.

“Education, employers, boards and training providers will all together be part of a larger solution.

“Marlborough is certainly an interesting example because of the amount of project work ahead … compared to what is normally expected in the books.”

The first workshop produced a list of Marlborough’s main challenges; attracting and retaining skilled workers to the area, the costs and availability of accommodation, the availability and support of training, attracting people to industry, government and regulatory issues, and employer support.

BROOK SABIN

When it comes to beauty and affordability, Marlborough surpasses others.

BCITO regional reports were due by the end of the year. The organization was funded by the Higher Education Commission (TEC) as part of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and Marlborough was one of the first areas to work with the industry group.

Blenheim businessman Robin Sutherland said it was one thing to find out how many empty buildings there were, but the next question would be who would pay for their conversion to housing.

“You have to consider the cost of upgrading the interior to a standard, and what we’ve found is that there are so many regulations and consultants needed, it’s not as simple as to install beds there. “

Robin Sutherland's YMCA project upstairs on Scott Street is on ice after a major investor pulled out of the lockdown.

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Robin Sutherland’s YMCA Project upstairs on Scott Street is on ice after a major investor pulled out of the lockdown.

Sutherland’s latest venture was to convert the second floor of its Scott Street office building into the city’s first YMCA, after seeing a severe shortage of affordable housing affect Blenheim’s ability to host events such as sports tournaments. for young people or musical and performance events.

However, the country entered an Alert Level 4 lockdown just days before construction began, before a major private investor pulled out due to its own investment issues in an uncertain economic climate. The project was now on the ice indefinitely.

“These lockdowns have just been devastating for the hosting landscape… Covid has really put us out of the game. It’s a very uncertain time. Even the banks are reluctant to invest in housing right now, and I don’t blame them, ”Sutherland said.



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