Langford’s population growth is sprinting ahead of other Greater Victoria municipalities with a 20.9 per cent increase in five years, as new-home construction spreads, commercial enterprise expands and public infrastructure is built out.
The decision to create a self-sustaining economy in Langford based on a foundation of affordable-family housing was made more than 20 years ago, Mayor Stew Young said Wednesday.
Small-lot subdivisions were welcomed before other municipalities allowed them, said Young, adding some still don’t want them.
Development has powered up to supply the demand for housing. Last year, Langford had 858 new-housing units, second only to Victoria, which saw 945 new units started. The story was similar in 2015, when Victoria, a hotbed for condominium construction, came in with 674 starts, followed by Langford at 527.
Building continues at a strong pace this year. Langford led the pack in January with 82 starts, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said. Victoria followed with 34 starts.
Langford’s strategy has clearly worked. It funds sports and entertainment facilities and, in the past 10 years, it has spent $90 million on infrastructure alone.
The municipality is more than a bedroom community, Young said. The belief is that “we should be job creators for the people of Langford.”
Langford’s population is now at 35,342, growing a little slower since the 2011 census showed a 30.1 per cent jump from 2006.
A commitment to foster business was rolled out early on, Young said. Today, the business portion of Langford taxes is 20 per cent, compared to three per cent when he was first elected in 1993, Young said.
Casey Edge of the Victoria Residential Builders Association said Young and the other council members have been “the strongest economic drivers in this region for the past 20 years. The reason is they embrace development. Infrastructure renewal comes along with that.”
Langford’s subdivisions and lack of red tape allow builders to put up single-family homes at a price newcomers to the housing market can afford, Edge said. An association member built new three-bedroom houses in Langford to offer at $375,000 — far lower than the benchmark price of $767,000 for a single-family house in January in Victoria’s core.
Langford, Victoria and Saanich are responsible for 77 per cent of new housing in the region, Edge said. “The remaining municipalities are falling behind,” he added.
Some municipalities, such as Metchosin, Highlands, and Oak Bay, did not have any multi-family projects started in 2015 or 2016, Edge said. North Saanich had none in 2015 and 12 multi-family units were started in 2016.
Population in Metchosin slid by two per cent in 2016 from 2011.
In Oak Bay, it moved up by just 0.4 per cent and the Highlands rose by five per cent.
Greg Baynton, chief executive of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, points to the number of multi-family projects going up, saying residential construction stimulates commercial development.
Multi-family units are attractive to retirees, people downsizing, first-time homebuyers and newcomers to the community, Baynton said.
Commercial developers watch this closely to anticipate where growth will be, he said, referring to development of the Uptown shopping and office complex on north Douglas Street, and major renovations and expansions at Hillside and Mayfair shopping malls.