If you think that there are more construction cranes towering over Victoria’s skyline these days, you’re not mistaken.
The city saw a seven per cent increase in construction permit values last year, and a 19 per cent increase on the residential side of the industry.
According to the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA), the construction boom will likely continue.
“The residential increase covers the whole gamut of residential construction, but the cranes you’re seeing are primarily related to the multi-family condo market that has been really hot,” said VICA CEO Greg Baynton.
Baynton said the early numbers for this year are promising, with the Greater Victoria region posting a roughly 30 per cent gain in residential and non-residential construction projects over January and February of last year.
At least part of the boom comes as a result of what Daryl Simpson of Bosa Properties called a changing culture at Victoria’s City Hall. He said the various departments of the city have become far more accommodating and efficient when dealing with new development.
It’s a sentiment that is echoed by Ken Mariash of Focus Equities. He credits Mayor Lisa Helps with driving that change in corporate culture.
“It’s a feather in our cap to hear Ken Mariash say that he feels that the culture (at city hall) has changed. To hear a large scale developer say that it’s easy to do business in Victoria, it’s a real testimony,” said Helps.
Baynton said other municipalities across B.C. are working to follow Victoria’s lead.
“For developers, time spent in approvals, permits and hearings amounts to increased money and risk,” he said. “It takes political leadership to remove barriers and help bring projects to market.”
The construction boom has a substantial impact on the region in terms of employment. VICA estimates between 30,000 and 35,000 people are employed in construction on Vancouver Island. Although statistics for Victoria are not kept on a separate basis, figures from the organization’s annual report show more than half of all Island building permits were issued within the Capital Region District. Those figures translate into the construction industry being directly responsible for more than 15,000 jobs in Victoria.
Bayton said those employment numbers reflect an increase of more than 15 per cent, over 2014 — a number that’s good news for the city.
Moreover, VICA predicts the construction boom will continue. Their analysis indicates the infrastructure deficit created over many years of very slow activity will continue for at least the next three years.
And there may be even more good news on the horizon.
None of the current outlooks for the industry have taken into account the federal government’s infrastructure investment strategy.
That initiative, details of which are due to be announced later this month, involves an infusion of $9.5 billion per year, doubling the current federal infrastructure investment to nearly $125 billion over the next 10 years. That funding will help to fuel projects for roads, water treatment, sewage, roads and public facilities.
“All of this combines to provide a very positive outlook for the industry in Victoria,” said Baynton, adding it might be a good time to get used to the sight of cranes.