The original Norland Place housing facility, completed in 2019, was the first major housing complex for homeless individuals in Burnaby. (Progressive Housing Society / YouTube)

‘It should be done by now’: Norland housing project to be completed 2 years late

The Norland Avenue project is the second social housing facility slated for the property. The first one was also late by seven months.

By Dustin Godfrey | September 14, 2022 |5:00 am

Construction of a modular housing project on Norland Avenue in Burnaby is now set to be completed almost two years after its original projected opening time.

The 43 units slated for 3986 Norland Ave. were expected in February 2021 to be under construction soon, with a timeline of completion in spring of that year.

Now, however, the project is expected to be completed in early 2023—nearly two years late.

Concrete truckers’ strike

BC Housing said in an emailed statement that the project “experienced a construction delay due to the previous concrete truckers’ strike.”

That strike lasted from May of this year until June. It’s not clear what had delayed the project up to that point, but Mayor Mike Hurley said the city has heard from BC Housing that the provincial housing corporation has struggled to source its prefabricated housing units.

“They tell us they’re having trouble getting the units built. There’s such a lineup for… those prefab units,” Hurley said. “So BC Housing, for whatever reason, they seem to be having trouble getting these units supplied as quickly as we would all like.”

BC Housing said completion of the final concrete pour at the project is expected next month.

‘It should be done by now’

Hurley said he didn’t believe there was enough urgency at BC Housing to get the housing units completed.

“In my opinion, it should be done by now. It should be done six months ago,” he said, adding that the city has continued to renew a lease from BC Housing for a temporary shelter in the area, at 3860 Sperling Ave., until the new housing is completed.

That emergency response centre, in the parking lot of the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex, was originally expected to have closed by the end of 2020 to make room for construction on the new arena.

But even the opening of the emergency response centre (ERC) had been delayed. In early February 2021, the ERC, a response to the pandemic, finally opened about six months late, and a month after it was expected to have closed.

Once the Norland Avenue project is completed, the ERC is set to close, and people staying there will be given an opportunity to get a spot in the new housing facility.

A trend of delays

The delays appear to be a trend with BC Housing and the city. The Norland Place property already has a modular housing project, and that, too, was completed behind schedule—about seven months in that case.

Emails obtained by Burnaby Now at the time, in late 2019, saw BC Housing staffer Naiomi Brunemeyer putting the blame on the city’s approvals processes she called “much more onerous [than] other municipalities.”

But it may not just be Burnaby—in May 2019, the Abbotsford News similarly reported on emails obtained over a modular housing project in that city.

In those emails, Brunemeyer said the “approval process at the City of Abbotsford has delayed this project considerably.”

The City of Abbotsford, however, told Abby News that there was a need to balance “timeliness with ensuring that all life safety, fire, and BC Building Code requirements are met.”

A domino effect

Hurley told the Beacon there is “of course” a domino effect from each project’s delays.

“It’s just taking longer to get in applications for more [housing units], right, so of course there’s a domino effect when things take too long,” Hurley said.

“And this really has taken a long time.”

While the original Norland Place housing units were seven months late, Hurley said the extended two-year delay on this project seems to be reflective of economic pressures from the pandemic, including supply chain disruptions, and a labour shortage.

But that doesn’t mean all affordable housing projects in the city are facing similar challenges. The city partnered with the federal government to build 53 units of affordable housing on 11th Avenue, with the feds funding the construction of 23 units and Burnaby the remaining 30.

And while the city’s $8-million contribution to that project, slated for women and children at risk of homelessness, only came early this year, Hurley said it should be completed “by the start of the new year.”

“So it’s moving along fairly quickly, actually,” Hurley said.

While construction on that project is being funded by the city and the federal government, it’s BC Housing that will provide funding for the operation, which will be done by the Elizabeth Fry Society.

That makes it a cooperative effort between all three levels of government, something Hurley said needs to be done far more often.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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