Already overwhelmed by their search for labor, industrialists also have the housing shortage on their hands. They redouble their imagination to find places to welcome their foreign workers and even from here.
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Provide accommodation for workers.
“That’s problem number one, labor shortages,” recalls Denis Boudreau, Exceldor’s vice president of human resources. We are short 20% of manpower. This is WHAT keeps me up at night. And the housing shortage adds a solid layer to it. »
“One of the barriers to hiring in the regions is the unavailability of housing,” confirms Richard Cuddihy, Bonduelle’s vice president of human resources.
According to a Scotiabank report, there were 424 available homes per 1,000 people in Canada in 2020; the lowest rate among the G7 countries.
Last December, the Quebec Association of Construction and Housing Professionals estimated that 100,000 homes were missing to rebalance supply and demand in the province’s residential market.
Recently, the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) stated that the number of homes started annually had to double for the imbalance to finally be resolved in… 10 years.
Bonduelle, Exceldor, but also Viandes du Breton and Serres Toundra, to name a few, are traveling far and wide to house their hundreds of temporary foreign workers. House rentals, motel conversions, CHSLDs, convents, everything is explored. “We walked,” says Exceldor’s Denis Boudreau. We lift rocks. We make alliances. »
South Shore Furniture recently purchased two houses to house 12 workers from its factory in Juárez, Mexico, who came to fill vacancies at its Coaticook and Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière facilities, CEO Jean-Stéphane Tremblay said in a statement. Press last July 15.
In Nicolet, the kitchen furniture manufacturer Thermoform has just acquired the Lucie Guévin nursing home that had just closed its doors, reported the local weekly. The South Post end of June. It will change its vocation to become a workers’ home.
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 duplexes (for six apartments) in Rivière-du-Loup, in a new residential area. An investment of two million dollars. “They are finished and ready to receive the workers”, indicates the vice president of human resources, Line Breton. We look forward to seeing you in the fall. »
Each duplex has six bedrooms, two bathrooms and double kitchens. The business must install a refrigerator, stove, washer, and dryer for each group of six employees. “Housing is really scarce in Rivière-du-Loup,” says Line Breton, whose company is also thinking of acquiring a house that can house 15 workers in Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse.
In 2023, Viandes du Breton will welcome 100 new employees, most of whom will be based in Rivière-du-Loup.
Thousands to house the workers.
For its part, Exceldor rents accommodation to third parties to accommodate its employees, such as in Longueuil. “If the house is rented empty, we furnish it. » The rent is paid by the chicken farmer, but part of the rent is deducted from the worker’s salary.
Housing its temporary employees costs thousands of dollars a year, according to Exceldor. “It is considerable, points out Denis Boudreau. For the coming year, we plan to welcome 300 temporary foreign workers at our factories in Quebec and Ontario. »
We also do rentals for people here. With the reality of labor shortages, if we want to operate the plant, we have no choice.
Denis Boudreau, Vice President of Human Resources at Exceldor
“We are experiencing a housing shortage and the word is weak,” he adds. In Chaudière-Appalaches, it’s easier, but in other places, like Montérégie, it’s extremely difficult. »
Crowded market in Montérégie
Speaking of Montérégie, Bonduelle has been renting two houses in Sainte-Martine since last year for 14 workers. “It is difficult to find accommodation in our city, confirms the mayor Mélanie Lefort. This is the topic of the hour. »
The vegetable processor also owns houses in Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu, still in Montérégie. “One year we housed workers in a convent in Saint-Hyacinthe,” says Richard Cuddihy. In Ontario, we bought an old shelter. »
Bonduelle goes to great lengths to provide suitable environments for its workers. An imperative, according to Cuddihy. “Temporary foreign workers have a choice of employers,” she notes. If an experience is not good, they will not return. »
Towards a greater role for housing entrepreneurs
The housing shortage forces, we will see in the future the return of the popular neighborhoods, of these company cities where work automatically came with a home?
The resurrection of closed cities or corporate cities, such as the Arvida neighborhood in Jonquière, seems premature at first glance, so attached is this concept to a past world where the worker entered the factory for life within an all-powerful company.
However, the scarcity and unaffordability of housing, combined with labor shortages, make entrepreneurs who lack labor realize the interest of intervening in housing. This is an opportunity for them to stand out in the job market to attract and retain much-needed workers.
Former Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz advances this idea in his latest book on the megatrends that will shape post-pandemic society.
« The property devenant de plus en plus chère et hors de portée d’un plus grand nombre de familles, les entreprises pourraient même trouver avantage à développer directement le logement des employés, voire à Construre des collectivités d’employés », écrit l’économiste within The next era of uncertainty published this year by Penguin Random House (French version not available).
Mr. Poloz suggests that a kind of housing allowance become part of the employees’ total compensation or that, directly, the employer invests in the value of his employee’s house at the time of the initial payment.
“At the end of the day, emphasizes this former member of the Business Development Bank of Canada, a large company is much better placed than an individual to absorb the risk associated with interest rates and house prices. »
The return of employee neighborhoods is far from a fanciful idea, according to an expert on housing and urban development issues.
“Google, IKEA and Volkswagen have built real small towns in recent years,” says Lucie K. Morisset, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage in the UQAM School of Management Sciences. “The trend is likely to continue as employers struggle to attract people. They must offer sedentarization. »
Otherwise, we would be witnessing 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 solely in the bosses. With industrialization and the development of special skills, it became apparent at the end of the 19th century.me century and early twentiethme century for companies that it was necessary to house their employees and ensure good accommodation so that they could settle there with their families”, explains Professor Morisset.
With Nathaelle Morissette Press