Constructive Conversations #7: Sean Hodgins of BC’s Century Group

Sean Hodgins grew up in the construction business and is now the president of Century Group, a family-owned business that was started in 1957. The company is based in New Westminster, BC but has recently been doing a lot of work in Vancouver working alongside local communities and neighbourhoods to add flavour and housing as needed. The mid-sized real estate development and management company handles its own construction while also managing enough income-producing properties to balance the tables.

Over the past few years, Sean has seen a lot, but nothing compares to the past 12 months as he has watched the construction process and housing market flip-flop in terms of local government and red tape. He commented that for a bit at the beginning it was almost refreshing to work with inspectors and the government as they waived some protocols and practices due to COVID. However, now the protocols and practices are back in place, and units are roadblocked waiting on permits. Sean commented that he would “like to think there would be a better way to deal with this process” and that “expediency isn’t caught with due process” which makes it harder to survive.

Interestingly enough, Sean works constantly with local governments despite acknowledging the difficulties with regulations, with the final goal of creating purpose-driven housing communities. He strongly believes that “local government needs to lead an intelligent discussion” to get local communities more involved in the planning processes. For example, if a neighbourhood feels they want better transit options then they need to be open to denser communities, which can be a difficult but necessary evil to address. His dream would be for local governments to really sit down with their people to discuss what they want upfront instead of waiting until people disagree with building permits and turn council meetings into a “shooting match at public areas.”

In fact, one of Sean’s favourite projects while at Century Group was the construction of 3 Civic Plaza which is the largest project they created in Surrey. They worked closely with the Surrey City Development Corporation and identified a need to add sophistication to the downtown and the need for a hotel because there wasn’t much to offer in the industry-focused area.

Outside of improving government engagement, Sean reiterated the need to get more women into the construction industry stating that “we are much better, but we have to be better-er.” He explained that they need the viewpoint of women to create better projects, and the construction industry in general needs to “really embrace and make a welcoming and inclusive environment” because this should not be “an alpha-male industry.”