Thermal King Glass owner Milan Prpic says his Colwood business is seeing a boom, but is having difficulty recruiting new workers due to housing affordability and availability. (Kendra Wong/News Gazette staff)

Housing crisis affecting local business

Milan Prpic says he’s having trouble recruiting for his Colwood business

When Milan Prpic took over as owner of Thermal King Glass, he was excited about the new business venture he was about to embark upon.

But in recent months that excitement has turned to frustration as the Colwood business owner said the lack of housing is affecting his ability to draw workers to the region.

“You feel like this is just going to be one of those things that pushes back potential growth away and these individuals who could have come here are forced to go back to other areas,” said Prpic, who has lived on the Island for the past two-and-a-half years.

“These are good quality people and very skilled people who can’t find any opportunity.”

Since Prpic took over the window, door and skylight installation company in June, business has been booming.

Hoping to expand from nine to roughly 13 to 15 employees to keep up with increase demand, he posted the job online through Kijiji, Used.ca, and the Federal Government Job Bank.

He received dozens of responses from people outside the region, such as in the Lower Mainland and as far away as Alberta.

But convincing them to move to the Island, which is in the middle of a housing crisis, has been a challenge to say the least.

He did manage to recruit one worker from the Lower Mainland, who ended up leaving left for a job in Port Alberni, due to lack of housing.

Being unable to hire qualified employees means longer wait times for customers Prpic said. Instead of being able to address projects in three to four weeks, customers are looking at six to eight weeks to have their projects installed.

“I think that there is a disconnect between the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government in order to come up with a better planning strategy for these areas and making sure, at the very least, in times where permanent accommodations are difficult to find that they would come up with a temporary accommodation solution,” Prpic said.

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Mayor Carol Hamilton said there are houses being built all over the West Shore, including developments at Royal Bay, Colwood Corners, an apartmental rental project on Painter Road and two other affordable housing complexes.

But she was quick to note many of those developments have yet to come to market.

“There’s a distinct issue between housing stock, availability, wage, and we need to build more, that’s what changes the price of homes and housing is when there is too much, ” said Hamilton, noting a home near her parents house sold $100,000 more than the asking price recently.

“We see it all over the place. The most sustainable way to lower those prices is more available housing. We’ve got to get the builders and get it built.”

For now, Prpic said he remains optimistic that he’ll be able to hire employees in the future.

kendra.wong@goldstrea

mgazette.com