Nanaimo residential construction turns hot
Nanaimo was the hot spot of residential construction on Vancouver Island last month. Contractors in the Harbour City built 134 new housing units -- projects that included an apartment building and several townhouse projects -- to more than double the 58 units that went up during the same month a year ago. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Nanaimo has 247 new housing units over the first three months of the year, compared with 165 over the first quarter of 2007. "Increased demand for both single and multi-family housing in Nanaimo boosted March's housing total housing starts on Vancouver Island," said Peggy Prill, senior market analyst with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s office in Victoria. A total of 287 new housing units were started on Vancouver Island in March. That was up from 250 during the same month a year ago. However, the 881 new housing starts for the first three months of the year are lower than the 952 built during the same quarter in 2007. All other major Island centers showed declines in new housing over the quarter. Greater Victoria had 391 starts over the first three months, compared with 468 a year ago. Duncan slipped to 46 from 61, Parksville-Qualicum 49 to 64 and Courtenay 148 to 194. A total of 86 homes were started in Victoria last month, down from 119 in February. The largest number of starts among local municipalities took place in Langford, where work began on 20 single-family homes. Saanich had 15 starts in March. "Certainly the level of pre-sales [on the Island] are continuing to be strong, although perhaps not quite as strong as in the last couple of years," Prill said. The federal agency is predicting that new home starts this year will be healthy, but not reach the numbers of last year. New home starts in B.C. urban centers decreased considerably to 29,800 (seasonally adjusted), from 47,400 in February. Nationally, the housing market cooled slightly in March, with construction slipping to 254,700 units from 255,600 the previous month, CMHC said. But last month's building activity was still stronger than most analysts had expected, given recent indications that Canada's hot market is beginning to retrench to more realistic levels. Forecasts ranged from 218,000 to 222,500 new units in March. "The high level of starts posted in February continued in March, thanks to the multiple segment and particularly condominium starts, which registered a significant rise in Alberta," said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC.
"Nevertheless, the single-detached component, which is usually a strong trend indicator, decreased slightly. This is consistent with our view that the housing market will moderate gradually throughout 2008."