The City of Ottawa is suffering from a shortage of building code inspectors, raising concerns about the quality of new homes built in the city’s rapidly expanding suburbs.
The city needs eight more building inspectors to fill existing vacancies, which amount to about 10 per cent of the team of people whose job it is to make sure all new buildings in Ottawa are safe.
Coun. Stephen Blais was surprised to learn about the shortage after raising concerns about an east-end subdivision where building code violations were missed by city inspectors.
He said he wouldn’t be so concerned if it had only happened once or twice, but it’s an ongoing problem.
“When that issue is replicated throughout the entirety of the subdivision, that’s a problem,” Blais said.
“It needs to be dealt with.”
He heard from a constituent earlier that morning who has been dealing with a building code violation that still hasn’t been addressed.
The city does have a claims process for homes not properly inspected for building code issues, but Blais said it should never get to the point where violations are going undetected because of a lack of experienced inspectors.
Shortage is province wide
But the city has tried several times to fill the vacancies, according to planning general manager Steve Willis. He said the city is simply feeling the effects of a province-wide shortage that hit about five years ago.
The city had a relatively full roster of inspectors during amalgamation in 2001, but now that those workers are retiring there are fewer people to replace them. The city salary ranges from $48,990 for an intern to $86,258 for an experienced inspector.
“It requires a lot of on-the-job experience so that you know what you’re seeing when you go into a building,” Willis said.
“It’s really necessary that people have internship opportunities and get the experience on the job.”
Last year alone the inspectors dealt with a massive building boom of new homes, the Gatineau floods, the Rideau Street sinkhole and a number of 2017 events that needed building inspectors.
“Every time there’s a major issue like that building inspectors get pulled in,” Willis said.
The city is working with Algonquin College to try to provide more onsite opportunities for students.
The other challenge is getting people to consider doing building code inspections as a career, because those that do are in high demand across Ontario, Willis said.