Pace of home building surges in Greater Victoria

A surge of homebuilding in July has the region on pace to match last year’s busy residential construction numbers.

Figures released Wednesday by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation showed 695 new housing units were started in Greater Victoria last month, more than doubling the output in July of last year when there were 304.

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Housing units include all types ranging from single-family homes to condominiums and townhomes.

This year to the end of July, 1,913 new homes have been started, versus 1,892 in the same period last year.

“We’re now back on track in terms of total housing starts,” said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association. “We had predicted a bit of a breather from last year, but this jump in multi-unit developments in one month has us on par with last year.”

Edge said they had been predicting about 2,400 starts in 2017, down from the 2,933 started in 2016. “Now the question is what happens with the remaining five months, that’s anybody’s guess but there’s still strength in the market in housing construction, and I guess it’s possible we may hit last year’s numbers,” he said.

But despite strong demand and a lack of inventory in the resale market, there are some factors working against homebuilders.

Due to wildfires raging around the province, particularly in lumber-producing communities, the staples of home construction, such as plywood and oriented strand board have increased by 10 and 40 per cent, respectively.

The pace of building in the region has made finding labour and skilled trades difficult and more expensive.

Edge said the final tally of housing starts this year will depend heavily on builders negotiating around those factors.

“Those costs are much worse than last year and the year before, they are all rising so at what point do the chickens come home to roost in terms of cost,” he said.

For the moment, however, it seems costs remain manageable.

According to CMHC the surge in starts last month was due to a number of new apartment rental projects getting underway.

“Completions of rental units have been quite strong in the first seven months of 2017, likely contributing to increased capacity for builders to start new projects,” the organization noted.

Of last month’s 695 starts, 543 were multi-family units, while 84 were single-family homes.

Victoria saw 283 multiples started last month, while Saanich had 111, Langford 68 and Colwood 60. Langford saw the most single-family homes started last month with 31.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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