Commission of Inquiry into the Quality of
Condominium Construction in British Columbia
Submitted to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council
Government of British Columbia
by Dave Barrett, Commissioner
June 1998

Chapter Two: The Framework of
Residential Construction

It is important to have an understanding of the residential building system; its main components; and how they relate to each other. Also important is the legislative and regulatory framework. The following identifies the central components of this industry; summarizes and analyzes issues raised by presenters to the Commission; and makes recommendations based on the conclusions reached.

I. Provincial Government

For the past 20 years, there has been a significant reduction in provincial spending on issues related to residential construction. This is especially true with respect to public housing, trades training and services related to the establishment and enforcement of the provincial building code. It is the Commission's view that the regulation of residential construction has received too low a priority in the allocation of resources. As well, there has been an erosion in the responsibility of ensuring that residential building standards are maintained and that the general application of the Building Code is monitored.

Residential construction policy has continued to be a battlefield, regardless of the numerous task forces that have been established in recent years. It is necessary for the provincial government to define a clear policy ensuring that the industry operates effectively, efficiently, and in the interests of all BC residents.

The Commission believes that a Homeowner Protection Office -- an arm of government, with direct reporting responsibility to the Minister of Municipal Affairs -- needs to be established. The Homeowners Protection Office would ensure consumer protection in the future, and redress the lack of consumer protection that existed in the past.

The Homeowners Protection Office would consist of:
(i) a regulatory arm, to ensure only qualified developers, general contractors, builders, sub-contractors, and warrantors operate within the province;
(ii) a research and education arm to ensure the knowledge necessary for carrying out new construction and undertaking renovations is understood and distributed throughout the industry; and
(iii) a financing arm to provide support -- as a last resort -- to consumers faced with reconstruction of residential buildings.

The Commission was provided with a copy of the draft legislation being prepared by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs prior to the establishment of the Inquiry and wishes to acknowledge the work that had been undertaken with industry, consumer and public sector input. The Commission's proposals modify and supplement this work in a number of important areas.

  Recommendation #2: That the provincial government introduce, as quickly as possible, legislation to establish the Homeowner Protection Act and create the Homeowner Protection Office to:
(i) strengthen consumer protection through implementing mandatory, private sector home warranty and statutory implied warranty for residential construction;
(ii) improve the quality of residential construction by regulating and licensing the residential construction industry;
(iii) undertake research and disseminate information;
(iv) provide access to dispute resolution for issues concerning residential construction; and
(v) establish a reconstruction fund as a source of support for residential homeowners hardest hit by problems with construction quality.

The details of this recommendation are provided in Chapter Three, Section II, Homeowner Protection Office.

In 1996, the provincial government dissolved the Building Standards Branch, responsible for the administration and interpretation of the Building Code. The Commission concurs with the numerous requests for the role and responsibilities performed by this group to be reinstated, and recommends an expansion of its activities.

"... (to) ensure that the building science and code conflicts are identified and addressed through improved education and transfer of information among the many participants of the building industry ... and that our present product evaluation system needs to be reviewed with the view of establishing a central data base and information transfer function."

Bob Switzer, Urban Development Institute

  Recommendation #3: That the role and responsibility of, what was formerly the Building Standards Branch, be reinstated under the proposed Homeowner Protection Office, as part of the Education and Research function of this new body, and that it provide guidance and direction on both the interpretation and enforcement of the building code.

  Recommendation #4: That the administration and interpretation of the Building Code be enhanced through the creation of provincial inspectors capable of undertaking onsite inspections.

  Recommendation #5: That the mandate of the Education and Research function of the Homeowner Protection Office include the dissemination of information to the building industry.

Both industry and labour representatives have expressed deep concern about the lack of provincial government financial support, for a proper and effective trades training system.

"Over the last three years, $8.6 million has been hacked from apprenticeship training. Training and apprenticeship should receive at least an equivalent level of support as other post-secondary education if we are to pull out of this training slump."

BC Provincial Council of Carpenters

"In November of 1997, the government implemented a new initiative to expand and improve industry training in BC with a bold mandate for expansion and revitalization. The government subsequently moved to reduce funding for these initiatives in its March budget. The impact of these cuts has been to reduce the ability of the trades training system to adequately respond to the needs of the construction industry."

Dave Robertson, BC Construction Association

  Recommendation #6: That the provincial government allocate sufficient resources for training and apprenticeship programs, in association with business and labour in the residential construction industry, through the Industry Trade Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC).


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Copyright © 1998: Government of the Province of British Columbia