Downtown Sidney remains a hub of construction as work on a mixed commercial-residential project with 91 on the site of the former Sidney Fire Hall continues. Sidney was one of the few communities in the Greater Victoria area that have seen housing starts from January to November 2019 rise compared to the same period last year, albeit at a low level, rising to 88 from 74. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Downtown Sidney remains a hub of construction as work on a mixed commercial-residential project with 91 on the site of the former Sidney Fire Hall continues. Sidney was one of the few communities in the Greater Victoria area that have seen housing starts from January to November 2019 rise compared to the same period last year, albeit at a low level, rising to 88 from 74. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Housing starts, value of building permits down across Greater Victoria

Fundamental changes, municipal regulations blamed for the drop with some communities bucking trend

New figures show housing starts are slowing in Greater Victoria, but at a high level, with analysts citing a number of factors.

Preliminary housing data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) shows new construction starts in Greater Victoria dropped seven per cent between January and November 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. The drop happened across all types of buildings with starts for single family homes dropping 23 per cent, and a combined three per cent for all other types.

Braden Batch, senior analyst, economics with CHMC, warns against reading too much into this drop, because it is happening against the backdrop of record setting years in 2017 and 2018 not seen since the mid-to-late 1970s.

“It [3,242 new housing starts] is actually quite a lot of housing starts for Victoria, especially if you look at a longer time scale,” he said, adding later that Victoria has been seeing historically unprecedented housing starts. “Basically, it is down by the amount of one or two major projects. We can easily see a major project come on line in December and that would equalize it.”

RELATED: New buildings approved for old Sidney fire hall site

But Batch is not sure so this will happen. A CHMC forecast released earlier this year predicts that the number of big projects will “taper off” in the coming years because of larger changes.

The release of the new CHMC data coincided with the release of new figures from Statistics Canada that show the value of building permits issued by municipalities in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) dropped by almost 40 per cent in October 2019 to 68.7 million. Compared to the same period last year, the value of building permits dropped almost 29 per cent from 96.4 million.

This regional drop appears consistent with the provincial picture with the value of building permits dropping 21.2 across British Columbia, the largest anywhere in the country. By comparison, the national value of building permits dropped 1.5 per cent.

RELATED: Greater Victoria records drop in building permit values

But Batch warns against reading too much into those figures.

“We know that construction has to slow down a little bit,” he said.

For construction to grow on top of record setting rates, the region would need much stronger population growth, much stronger employment growth, said Batch.

“The fundamental factors are starting to pull back,” he said. “So we will expect construction to pull back as well.”

Looking around Greater Victoria and the rest of Vancouver Island, new housing starts were up 91 per cent in Victoria, down 57 per cent in Saanich, 75 per cent in Central Saanich, and down 23 per cent in Langford. That said, Langford still created 39 per cent of all new housing in the region with 1,254 units. Esquimalt, Colwood and Sidney have also recorded higher housing starts.

Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association, said developers are becoming “more wary” in larger economic fundamentals, such as layoffs in the forestry industry. The provincial government has also driven up costs through various taxes including the speculation tax, he said.

“Municipal governments like Saanich and Central Saanich are increasing permit fees and building costs through Step Code, while obstructing market housing,” he said, adding that Saanich council voted to fast-track government funded projects, while pushing back market housing to the back of the line.

“Home building requires manageable risk,” he said. “Adding government costs and uncertainty increase risk and erode new housing. This concept seems to be lost on some municipal councils.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

February 17, 2021 - Kaelyn (L) and Costin Campbell are Goldstream News Gazette 2021 Local Heroes.
Pint-sized duo inspires others to be green

Costin and Kaelyn Campbell are this year’s Environmental Heroes

Erin Oldman received a scholarship through Royal Roads University (RRU), called the Legacy Award, which is given out once every five years. Oldman graduated from RRU with a Masters of Arts in Human Security and Peacebuilding, and is using the award to establish a charity called International Humanitarian Assessments, which helps people in war-torn areas of the Middle East. (Photo contributed by Erin Oldman)
Royal Roads University graduate receives $25,000 award

Erin Oldman will use the award to establish a charity in the Middle East

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read