Building permits jump 178 per cent
New starts soared to $113.7 million during October
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, December 07, 2006
CREDIT: Canadian Press
Greater Victoria developers showed a surprising burst of confidence in the economy in October by taking out $113.7 million in building permits -- a 178-per-cent increase from the $41 million issued the month before, according to data released yesterday by Statistics Canada.
New condominium starts throughout the region accounted for $40 million of the October total and single detached homes another $20 million. An assisted-living project in Saanich and institutional projects at the University of Victoria and Camosun College were worth another $50 million.
Despite a slowdown in the U.S. housing market and signs of slipping residential starts in Eastern and Central Canada, the country continues on a construction tear with more than $6 billion in permits issued during October -- the second highest on record and a six-per-cent rebound from September.
Most of the increases, however, were evident in Western Canada, with major metropolitan centres in B.C. and Alberta showing double-digit gains from last year.
Builders don't expect Victoria's sizzling construction pace to cool any time soon.
"We're turning down most tendered work -- we have been for six months -- and are dealing only with regular clients," says Bill Johnson, president of Victoria-based Farmer Construction, one of the province's largest general contractors.
"We're busier now than we've ever been -- and I've been with this company for 30 years and in the construction business for 35 years."
Almost all of the region's 13 municipalities are showing huge increases in building permits this year. Overall, the area has issued $621.2 million in permit value over the first 10 months of 2006, a 10 per cent increase over the same period last year.
Saanich had more than $220 million in permits issued after the first 10 months of the year -- already more than double the total for all of last year. Victoria was up about $10 million so far this year to $219.6 million. Langford -- with the massive Bear Mountain resort within its boundaries and condos rising in the core -- is on record ground with $132 million in permits to the end of November and more are coming in every day, said city spokesman Dan Reynolds.
Reynolds said Langford had $96 million in permits last year.
Saanich has accumulated more than half of its building permit value from the University of Victoria, which has spent $147.2 million on four new buildings on the campus. One is complete and the others have completion dates in 2008.
"It's extremely busy and we've been that way for the last six years ... it hasn't really changed," said Wayne Farey, operations manager for Campbell Construction.
The general contractor employs 180 and has five major condominium projects on the go, including the $27-million Chelsea and a six-storey Sayward Hill at Cordova Bay.
Farmer Construction employs between 150 and 200 journeyman, but has more than 1,000 workers including sub-trades on sites around the city on several high-profile projects, including the $400-million Dockside Green, the 15-storey Juliet on Blanshard, the $16-million Bicino condo project on Menzies and the Parkside Resort quarter-share project in the Humboldt Valley.
Farmer has also started the $1-billion Bayview project in the Songhees, just finishing the initial floor on the first of five towers.
The company also expects to start building the $23-million Pacific Sport facilities near Camosun's Interurban campus in March.
Johnson said although prices for commodities and construction supplies have settled, worker shortages persist.
That has led the company to turn away tendered work and stick with regular clients.
"We're trying to get workers from across the country, but it's busy in Alberta and even Ontario. We're having to train and develop our own people."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006