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Kootenay region sees massive construction spike

Russell Hixson
Kootenay region sees massive construction spike

B.C.’s Lower Mainland isn’t the only powerhouse in construction activity. Recently, building permits in the province’s Kootenay region are going through the roof, says one local politician.

According to City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, the city’s permits usually average around $6 to $9 million but this year they exploded to nearly $20 million.

"That’s a huge increase and I think it shows a lot of confidence returning to Cranbrook and the economy here," he said.

Pratt said some people are fleeing tough oil price conditions in Alberta, prompting a boom in residential construction. But recently, more are escaping skyrocketing living costs in the Lower Mainland.

"It’s the cost of housing and the cost of living," he said. "People are getting to the point where they want to have some quality of life."

He said the growth is also spilling into other nearby cities like Revelstoke and Nelson.

Real estate, utilities and other costs are much lower in the region, meaning it can cost around $25,000 less to live than in Metro Vancouver, making it attractive to young families looking for a higher quality of life, Pratt explained.

To take advantage of the situation, Pratt said the region is developing a new campaign to market the benefits of the area.

Another reason for Cranbrook’s success is changes to the city’s approach to development and how permits are approved, he said.

"We have changed our cities development process to simplify it to make it more business friendly," Pratt said. "I am not a politician so bureaucracy just kills me."

The city is currently seeking a development officer to help shepherd projects through the process. Developers will be able to better work with the city to understand what they need to do to get approved before making a significant investment, he added.

"We can expedite the permits a lot quicker with this process and often combine development and building permits," said Pratt.

And with a large trades program at the nearby College of the Rockies, Pratt says he hopes many of the skilled tradespeople graduating will consider staying in the region to take advantage of the construction boom.

"The whole idea is to create economic activity and keep our young people here in town," Pratt said.

Cranbrook is the largest developed area east of Vancouver other than Kelowna and is largely undiscovered. Its proximity to Alberta and the Lower Mainland is appealing, he added.

"The location is perfect," Pratt said. "And once we get people to realize that we can get them to do business here."

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