The past couple of years have been brutal for Vancouver Island’s loggers. First, a nasty lockout and strike and then the pandemic hit, jobs were scarce.
But over the last year, everything has changed. Recently, the price of lumber hit a record high at more than $1,300 U.S. dollars per thousand square feet.
Prices went up because, when the COVID lockdown hit, people started doing renovations they had put off for years. The pandemic has also messed up supply chains, so it’s harder to get wood and building supplies to where they need to be.
Paul Beltgens owns the Paulcan and Jemico Enterprises mill in Chemainus. In an interview with CHEK News, he said “[t]his is by far the highest I’ve ever seen it. What it’s allowed some of the coastal mills here is to take some of that money and hopefully put it back in and modernize some of our industry.”
He said that instead of selling most of their lumber to Japan, the mill is now selling wood in Canada and the US. Beltgens even wants to hire more staff.
Paul Jannke from Forest Economic Advisers (FEA) told CTV News that “[l]umber prices are the highest they have ever been… If you’re going to build a deck this summer, you will be paying three times more for your lumber than you would have two years ago.”
So while mill owners are looking at hiring and fixing up their mills, local builders are worried. Paul Bowater of Mid Island Homes told CHEK News that the only thing builders can do is pass the cost of lumber on to the buyers. The high price of lumber has added about $30,000 to the cost of building a house. He worries that people won’t be able to afford the high costs and that builders will just take a break until prices come back down.
Both builders and mill owners agree that the high prices are unsustainable. Jannke from FEA thinks that these high prices will stick around until the fall.