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Local builders still busy as real estate market takes a break

2,681 new homes were started through the first seven months of this year in Greater Victoria, ahead of last year’s pace when 2,500 new units were started
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Construction work on the Vista development, at the corner of Esquimalt and Admirals roads, on Tuesday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The real estate market may be taking a breather, but there has been no such break for homebuilders in the region judging by new housing start figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The numbers, released Tuesday, show 2,681 new homes were started through the first seven months of this year in Greater Victoria, ahead of last year’s pace when 2,500 new units were started.

It’s a tale of multi-family projects in two parts of the region, said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association.

Edge said Victoria and Langford are once again doing all of the heavy lifting.

“There are a bunch of municipalities that just fly under the radar every year, like Oak Bay that still doesn’t have zoning for duplex housing,” he said noting Oak Bay has built just 19 new homes this year, while North Saanich has started 16.

“And people question why do we have a housing affordability problem,” he said.

“Well, you have just a handful of municipalities that are really carrying the weight for 13 municipalities.”

The lion’s share has been done by Victoria so far this year.

With a focus on condo and rental apartments, the city has seen 1,219 homes started, well ahead of last year’s 696. Langford has started 663 so far this year, off last year’s pace of 862 through the end of July.

Edge said what’s missing is the missing middle housing — townhomes and houseplexes, rather than the usual condos and single-family homes — that can suit small families and provide more housing options in all parts of the region.

The fact builders in at least two of the region’s centres are busy may help the market catch up a bit, as the number of property sales has slowed considerably. The B.C. Real Estate Association released numbers on Tuesday showing Victoria’s sales dropped 37.5 per cent in July compared with the same time last year, while the Island saw a 40 per cent drop and the province fell 42 per cent.

“High mortgage rates continued to lower sales activity in July,” said BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson.

“Many regions around the province have seen sales slip to levels well below normal for this time of year.”

At the same time, provincial active listings rose 28 per cent year-over-year.

Inventories remain quite low, but the slow pace of sales has tipped some markets into ­balanced or even buyers’ market territory, the association noted.

Year-to-date, residential unit sales were down 29.3 per cent to 56,801 units, while the average residential price was up 13.2 per cent to $1.03 million.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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