Greater Victoria builders struggle to keep up with demand

Greater Victoria homebuilders — working at a fever pitch over the past two years — slowed down in September as the number of new homes started that month fell below 300.

Homebuilders began work on 263 new homes last month, a significant drop from the 600 started in September 2017, though the reason behind it is likely the fact builders are simply too busy to start new projects, say insiders.

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“Housing starts trended lower in [Greater] Victoria, however year-to-date totals remained higher than in 2017,” said Braden Batch, senior market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “A number of large apartment units were recently initiated and units under construction are at record highs as there is strong demand for relatively affordable units in the city.”

Of the 263 new starts, 190 were multi-family units and 73 were single-family homes.

Year-to-date, builders have started 3,028 new homes, up from the 2,696 started through the first nine months of last year.

Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association, said there are several factors affecting the pace of building, including rising interest rates, new mortgage stress-test rules, the anticipated speculation tax and the time it takes builders to navigate the development processes in some area municipalities.

“We know all these things will weigh further on the housing supply, but having said that we are still right now posting more starts than at the same time last year,” said Edge.

Langford leads the way with 1,439 starts through the first nine months of the year, almost double the 765 started over the same period last year. Saanich has seen 369 new homes started so far this year, down from 423 last year, and Victoria has seen its pace cut in half with 319 starts so far this year compared to 665 at the same time in 2017.

Edge said while builders are starting more than the average of 2,000 homes a year, they are still not keeping up with demand.

“We have seniors, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials all in the housing market at the same time, so the usual [building average] just won’t cut it anymore,” said Edge. “We have a tsunami of Canadians in the market and that’s why we have an affordability crisis despite us building above our average.”

Last year Greater Victoria builders started 3,862 new homes, the most recorded since 4,439 were started in 1976.

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