CMHC reports housing starts in Greater Victoria totaled 3,862 in 2017. This is the highest number since 1976 at 4,439. The last time the region posted numbers close to this was in 1975 with a total of 3,980.
The reason for the strong starts is mostly multi-family construction of 2,966 compared with 2,933 last year. Single family units actually declined somewhat from 910 to 896. In fact, we are now building only 60% of the single family homes produced in 1975. High land costs discourage the single family market except in communities like Langford where small lots are embraced to support affordability for young families. Anti-development policies tend to be highest in communities with low or declining housing starts such as Central Saanich (from 59 to 32) and Highlands (from 39 to 10.) The provincial government has refused to pursue responsible planning through amalgamation.
Central Saanich increased their DCC’s by more than 100% last year using the rationale they needed to accommodate significant growth. VRBA disputed their projections and the decline so far seems to bear that out. The municipality’s building permit process is one of the slowest and most challenging in the CRD. Oak Bay starts are up only from 41 to 42 demonstrating the rezoning/anti-development challenges in that community.
The challenge for housing in 2018 will be new mortgage rules, rising interest rates, and poorly designed, costly energy regulations launched by the Horgan govt called the Step Code. The term is deceptive because it implies the increases take place in steps. It’s really a Leap Code where municipalities may leap to any one of five Tiers adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home. In addition, those planning to build a simple home based on the National Building Code may now be subjected to the complications and expense of building a Passive/Net Zero home. There is no certified education supporting the Step Code leaving the door open to unintended consequences like leaky condo.