Vancouver Island housing starts reach record high in 2021: CPABC

According to ‘BC Check-Up: Invest’, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on investment trends across the province, the number of housing units that began construction on Vancouver Island/Coast (excluding Greater Victoria) increased by 21.8 per cent in 2021, compared to the number started in 2020.

“The region saw a decline in housing construction in 2020, so it is encouraging to see housing starts rebound strongly in 2021,” said Woody Hayes, FCPA, FCA. “Residential developers recognized the investment potential given the very robust demand and rising prices for housing, leading to a record number of housing starts last year.”

In 2021, 3,417 housing units began construction in the Vancouver Island/Coast region (excluding Greater Victoria), up from 2,805 started in 2020, and 3,067 in 2019. Nanaimo had the most housing starts at 1,084 (up 41.1 per cent compared to 2020), followed by 740 in Courtney (up 55.5 per cent), and 468 in Campbell River (up 15.0 per cent).

The largest increase was for attached units, such as condos, townhomes, and apartments. In 2021, there were 2,217 attached units started across the region, up by 27.0 per cent compared to 2020. Meanwhile, there were 1,200 detached units started, up by 13.2 per cent.

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“Despite the record setting year, there continues to be a shortage of residential units across the region. Coupled with significant market demand, this has resulted in large price increases. The provincial government is investigating opportunities to speed up issuing development permits, which has been a constraint on producing residential inventory,” continued Hayes. “Another positive investment trend was that the region continued to see a large number of major projects on the books, though only a small proportion are currently under construction.”

According to the annual report, the total value of major projects, those worth over $15,000,000, across Vancouver Island (excl. Greater Victoria) was $16.8 billion in Q3 2021, up 2.4 per cent compared to Q3 2020.

Of all the projects, 18 were under construction in Q3 2021, with a value of $924 million, up from $534 million in Q3 2020. This increase was due to some projects recently starting construction, including the Nanaimo Correctional Centre ($167 million), and Power River Wastewater Treatment Plant ($76 million).

Most projects were in the proposal stage, with 29 projects forecast to have a capital cost of $11.3 billion. Some are expected to begin construction over the next few years, including the Port Alberni Shipping Facility ($1.6 billion), Cowichan Hospital Replacement ($888 million), and Duke Point Terminal Expansion ($105 million). The region’s largest project, the Bute Inlet Hydroelectric Project ($3.3 billion), continued to be on hold.

“While the region has relatively few major projects currently underway, there are several large ones anticipated to start in the short-term, which will help enhance our economic recovery,” concluded Hayes. “The considerable amount of residential and non-residential projects support jobs, boost housing supply, improve services, and set our region up to be more productive. Going forward, our region should actively encourage more of these investments to help improve our outlook.”

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