Businesses, population growth fuel housing in Cowichan Valley

There is a bit more spring in the step these days amid the Cowichan Valley’s business community and that confidence appears to have spilled over into the region’s real estate market.

According to figures released last week by B.C. Assessment, the region has seen a jump in assessed residential values ranging from five to 8.4 per cent for a typical home, compared to values a year earlier. There’s good reason for it, said the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.

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Chamber president Julie Scurr said she has seen renewed confidence in the area with new businesses coming to town, small manufacturers relocating to the valley and population growth that is eating up housing inventory.

“I think [an assessment increase] says people are moving here and therefore market values are going up,” Scurr said, noting it’s likely a combined product of all regions following the provincial trend and the supply-and-demand dynamic in the region.

“People want to move here, they find it an affordable alternative and it’s still close to Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle,” Scurr said.

She said proximity to the two largest Island centres has resulted in values increasing as a result of people in Victoria and Nanaimo looking for more affordable housing. “People are relocating businesses here, some people are telecommuting,” she said. “At the chamber we had 80 new members joining last year. Now we have almost 500 members.

“People are bringing business here and they want to invest in this area.”

Last year, the Cowichan Valley reported a 31 per cent increase in home sales and an eight per cent increase in the average selling price to $389,947.

The result of the increased activity and competition has been an 8.4 per cent increase in the assessed value of the typical home in Lake Cowichan, which is now valued at $228,000.

In rural Lake Cowichan, the increase was 7.2 per cent to $321,000, while in rural Cowichan it jumped 6.9 per cent to $411,000, and in North Cowichan it increased 6.5 per cent to $341,000.

In Duncan, assessed values increased just over five per cent to $267,000.

“Increases are a trend you’re seeing everywhere in the province. We’re getting the spin-off from Vancouver and Victoria. And Nanaimo and Victoria are now getting very pricey, so we are now the third alternative,” said Scurr. “I think affordability will be an issue everywhere, but at this point in time, what you can get here for your money is still of significant value.”

Jason Finlayson, a real estate agent with Pemberton Holmes in Duncan and Vancouver Island Real Estate Board director, said prices have been rising for a while.

He said when B.C. Assessment did its valuations in July, the average sale price of a home in the Cowichan Valley was already 10 per cent over what it had been at the same time in 2015.

“We have very low inventory, it has dropped year-over-year for the last three or four years and I think that will continue to drive prices,” he said.

Finlayson said while much of the demand is coming from Island locals, he has seen some Vancouver buyers selling their mainland homes and snapping up property in the valley.

He said there’s a chance the increased demand and higher valuations will spur developers to add to the housing inventory this year. “I certainly hope so,” he said, noting that empty lots in places such as the dormant Cliffs over Maple Bay development have been purchased over the last year by builders. “They are now stepping up.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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