Already overwhelmed by their search for workers, the industrialists also have the housing shortage in their hands. They double their imaginations to find places to welcome their foreign workers, even from here.
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Provide housing for workers
“That’s the main problem, the labor shortage,” recalls Denis Boudreau, Vice President of Human Resources at Exceldor. We have a 20% staff shortage. That’s what keeps me up at night. And the housing shortage adds a solid layer. »
“One of the barriers to hiring in the regions is the lack of housing,” confirms Richard Cuddihy, Vice President of Human Resources at Bonduelle.
According to a report by Scotiabank, there were 424 available homes per 1,000 people in Canada in 2020; the lowest rate among G7 countries.
Last December, the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec estimated that 100,000 housing units were missing to rebalance supply and demand in the province’s housing market.
Recently, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) stated that annual housing starts would have to double in order for the imbalance to be finally corrected in … 10 years.
Bonduelle, Exceldor, but also Viandes du Breton and Serres Toundra, to name just a few, are looking everywhere for their hundreds of temporary foreign workers. Home rentals, motel conversions, CHSLDs, monasteries, everything is explored. “We walk around,” says Denis Boudreau of Exceldor. We lift stones. We enter into partnerships. »
South Shore Furniture recently bought two houses to house 12 workers from its Juárez, Mexico factory who came to fill vacancies at its Coaticook and Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière facilities, said its CEO, Jean – Stephane Tremblay The press last on July 15th.
In Nicolet, the manufacturer of kitchen cabinets Thermoform has just acquired the Lucie Guévin retirement home which had just closed its doors, the local weekly reported. The Courier South End of June. He will change his vocation to make it a home for workers.
Last year, Serres Toundra spent $5 million building three three-story apartment buildings in Saint-Félicien to house some of its 250 Guatemalan workers.
For its part, Viandes du Breton has built three semi-detached houses (for six apartments) in Rivière-du-Loup in a new residential area. An investment of two million dollars. “They’re done and ready to take on the workers,” says Vice President of Human Resources Line Breton. We’re expecting them in the fall. »
Each duplex has six bedrooms, two bathrooms and double kitchens. The company must install a refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer for each group of six employees. “Apartments are really scarce in Rivière-du-Loup,” says Line Breton, whose company is also considering buying a home for 15 workers in Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse.
In 2023, Viandes du Breton will welcome 100 new employees, most of whom will work in Rivière-du-Loup.
Millions to house the workers
For its part, Exceldor rents accommodation to third parties to house its employees there, as in Longueuil. “When the house is rented empty, we set it up. » The rent is paid by the chicken farmer, but part of the rent is deducted from the wages of the worker.
According to Exceldor, housing its temp workers costs millions of dollars annually. “It’s remarkable, notes Denis Boudreau. By next year, we expect to welcome 300 temporary foreign workers to our Quebec and Ontario factories. »
We also do rentals for people here. Given the labor shortage, we have no choice if we want to operate the facility.
Denis Boudreau, Vice President of Human Resources at Exceldor
“We are experiencing a housing shortage and the word is weak,” he adds. It’s easier in Chaudière-Appalaches, but elsewhere, like Montérégie, it’s extremely difficult. »
Tight market in Montérégie
Speaking of Montérégie: Bonduelle has been renting two houses in Sainte-Martine for 14 workers since last year. “It is difficult to find accommodation in our city, confirms Mayor Mélanie Lefort. That’s the topic of the hour. »
The vegetable processor also owns houses in Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu, still in Montérégie. “We housed workers in a monastery in Saint-Hyacinthe for a year,” says Richard Cuddihy. In Ontario we bought an old animal shelter. »
Bonduelle does everything to offer its employees a suitable environment. According to Mr. Cuddihy, an imperative. “Foreign temporary workers have a choice of employer,” he notes. If an experience isn’t good, they won’t come back. »
Towards a greater role for employers in housing
Committed to housing shortages, we’re going to see the return of working-class neighborhoods in the future, these company cities where the job automatically came with a home?
The revival of closed towns or company towns like the Arvida district in Jonquière seems premature at first glance, so attached is this concept to a bygone world where the worker entered the factory to live in an almighty corporation.
However, the scarcity and unaffordability of housing coupled with labor shortages mean that employers with labor shortages are keen to intervene in housing construction. This is an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves in the job market to attract and retain the workforce they desperately need.
Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz advances this idea in his latest book on the megatrends that will shape post-pandemic society.
“As property becomes more expensive and out of reach for more families, companies might even find it beneficial to directly develop employee housing or even build employee communities,” writes the economist in The Next Age of Uncertainty published this year by Penguin Random House (the French version is not available).
Mr Poloz suggests that some form of housing benefit become part of workers’ total pay, or that the employer invest directly in the equity of their worker’s home at the time of the down payment.
“After all, this former member of the Business Development Bank of Canada points out, a large company is far better placed than an individual to absorb the risk associated with interest rates and home prices. »
The return of employee quarters is anything but a whimsical idea, according to an expert on housing and urban development issues.
“Google, IKEA and Volkswagen have built veritable small towns in recent years,” says Lucie K. Morisset, Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage at UQAM’s School of Management Sciences. “The trend is likely to continue as employers struggle to attract new employees. You must offer sedentariness. »
Otherwise we would witness a repetition of the past.
“The history of the territory is linked to the history of the companies. For a long time, the working class was housed only with the bosses. With industrialization and the development of special skills, it became evident at the end of the 19th centurye Century and at the beginning of the XXe Century for the companies that it was necessary to accommodate their employees and to ensure good accommodation so that they could settle there with their families”, explains Professor Morisset.
With Nathaelle Morissette The press