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Home sweet temporary home

If just four of the major liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for the Northwest proceed an estimated 15,000 workers will be needed.
A rendering of the PTI Lodge at Strawberry Meadows.

If just four of the major liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for the Northwest proceed to construction, not taking pipelines into account, an estimated 15,000 workers will be coming to the region.

To put that in perspective, the 2011 census put the population of Terrace at 11,486 and the population of Prince Rupert at 12,508. In essence, the construction workforce would be the same as creating another city larger than either of the two biggest communities in the region.

With that many people looking for temporary accommodations, worker housing becomes an industry of its own.

The largest proponent of workforce housing in the Northwest is Edmonton-based PTI Group.

The company has operated workforce lodging in a number of areas for a variety of different sectors, from housing oil sands workers near Fort McMurray to housing mining employees in the Northwest  Territories and from catering to thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan to housing more than 1,000 security personnel for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"We build lodges that are very much turn-key with recreation facilities, dining facilities and high-end accommodations," explained PTI Group vice-president of business development Sean Crockett.

PTI Group is currently working to develop three sites in the region, each in a different community.

In Kitimat, the PTI lodge at Strawberry Meadows would include a base of 360 units. Upon adding an additional 240 units (up to 600 beds), a housing agreement will be made that requires all the units to be single-occupancy, rental only and with a minimum of 80 per cent available for construction workers and employees of businesses located in an industrial zone. At full capacity, PTI Group's lodge will have a total configuration of up to 2,154 beds. The company is scheduled to break ground on the development on May 1.

As well as $500 per bed for future affordable housing being paid to the District of Kitimat, plans call for the construction of pedestrian access trails through the land for those with mobility challenges. Should the 2,154-bed configuration come to pass, PTI would provide meeting spaces "to facilitate communication between PTI, area residents, the District of Kitimat, the Chamber of Commerce, RCMP, Northern Health and other interested groups, at no cost to the municipality".

The company has also purchased, and received initial rezoning approval for, 15 hectares of land in the District of Port Edward to accommodate workers needed for the various projects on the North Coast. PTI  said plans for the site include housing for between 1,500 and 2,000 workers in "semi-permanent structures that really focus on a superior level of lodging".

The PTI Group recently purchased a 37.6-hectare parcel of land located north of the Churchill Dr. subdivision a few minutes south of Terrace near Thornhill. Although Crockett said plans for that facility are still in development.

In terms of job creation, Crockett said PTI Group aims to staff the facilities with as many local employees as possible at an approximate ratio of one staff member for every 10 tenants, meaning the developments in Port Edward and Kitimat alone could create more than 400 jobs.

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