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Nanaimo home builders off to strong start this year

Housing starts are up by 32 units in the first four months of 2014. That's a 47 per cent increase from the same period last year, in a sector that puts considerable money in the local economy from tradespeople, retailers and professional services.
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Permits for 100 new homes were issued in Nanaimo during the first four months of 2014, compared to 68 in the same period last year.

Housing starts are up by 32 units in the first four months of 2014.

That's a 47 per cent increase from the same period last year, in a sector that puts considerable money in the local economy from tradespeople, retailers and professional services.

"Things have picked up," said Chris Cross, Canadian Home Builders Association Central Vancouver Island president.

"The burst started in January of this year. It looks like the market is moving."

Permits for 100 new homes were issued in Nanaimo during the first four months, compared to 68 in the same period last year.

Multiple-unit construction is down slightly. Builders took out 63 permits for multi-units, such as townhouses, condominiums and apartments. That's a difference of four fewer than last year. Laurel Lambert, of Homes by Kimberly, noticed an improvement since the HST was removed from higher priced homes.

"Nobody wanted to be the last person paying the HST when you're building a million-dollar home," said Lambert.

Busy builders mean busy building suppliers.

"It's picked up somewhat this year," said Rick Tutte, sales manager at Slegg Construction Materials. "We're obviously a little busier than we were a few months ago. There's more permits coming out, so it helps everybody."

More building activity affects tradespeople too, from those pouring the concrete foundations through to electricians and roofers.

"I would say it's a little busier," said Hank Aarsen, owner of Aarsen Gutters Enterprises.

"In my world, it just means longer days. It's to the point, sometimes, where you lose money, because you have to give some jobs away. You can't take all the work, but that's OK because there's lots of other gutter guys."

Widespread anxiety about the economy that existed a few years ago across North America seems to have eased among Island home builders.

"It could be the HST, it could be interest rates are stable," Cross said. "In the market it looks like a lot of re-sales are moving, and that's eating up inventory, so now builders are saying. .. it's time to catch up, to try to fill that gap."