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Greater Victoria on the way to record for housing starts

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Housing going up in Royal Bay last month. Population growth is seen as the major driver behind a surge in housing starts in Greater Victoria. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Greater Victoria homebuilders appear to be doing their part to tackle the housing crisis as they are on the cusp of setting a new record for home starts this year.

Numbers released Wednesday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation showed builders in the region started 4,127 new homes through the first 11 months of 2021, just 312 units shy of the record of 4,439 set in 1976.

“It’s very busy out there,” said Casey Edge, ­executive director of the Victoria ­Residential Builders Association. “Right now, we’re looking at the fourth-highest housing starts in 48 years and we haven’t even reached the end of the year.”

Last year, the region saw 3,209 new homes started. In 2019, there were 3,499.

Edge said the strong ­building pace has been managed despite challenges posed by the ­pandemic, the ongoing labour shortage and an inconsistent supply chain.

He said that builders are still dealing with delays and increased costs due to what he called protracted zoning ­processes.

“Builders are certainly capable of more supply, but they spend a lot of their time waiting on municipalities to approve projects. There’s definitely a bottleneck,” Edge said.

Just over half of the new homes in 2021 have been in Langford, Colwood and Sooke where builders have started 2,120 units while Victoria has seen 1,199 starts.

Edge said demand due to population growth is likely the main driver of this year’s increased activity.

“That’s what drove three of the highest housing-start years on record in the 1970s — they were driven by the baby ­boomers, the engine that has driven the economy for ­decades,” he said. “Now you have the millennials, a ­demographic almost as large as the boomers, starting families and driving population growth.”

There were also signs of strength in homebuilding across the country, according to CMHC.

There were 267,365 units started in November, up from 264,583 in October.

“The six-month trend in housing starts was higher from October to November, with total starts rebounding from their declines in prior months,” said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan.

“There was a slight decrease in single-detached starts, while multi-family starts experienced a large increase in November, resulting in higher overall starts for the month.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

­— With The Canadian Press