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Vancouver Island permits stay above water despite pandemic challenges

DCN-JOC News Services
Vancouver Island permits stay above water despite pandemic challenges
PROVINCE OF B.C. — While construction employment has taken a hit on Vancouver Island, construction advocates believe building permit values remain strong during the pandemic.

VICTORIA — While some sectors of construction on Vancouver Island continue to struggle, the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) believes overall building permit values are maintaining a strong position.

According to the latest data released by VICA, the total value of building permits issued on Vancouver Island dipped four per cent to $652.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 from $681.6 million the third quarter. Residential building permits bumped up 26 per cent over the third quarter to $538.2 million but were four per cent lower compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Non-residential permits dropped 55 per cent in the quarter to $114.1 million from $254.5 million following a large surge in commercial permits in the third quarter. Commercial permits plunged 73 per cent to $56.3 million while institutional-government permits posted a 32 per cent increase to $50.3 million to partially offset that drop. 

“Overall, building permit activity in Vancouver Island communities continues at a strong level, despite the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rory Kulmala, VICA CEO, in a statement.

Some communities are faring better than others. The association highlighted a 60 per cent spike in residential permits issued in the Capital Regional District over the third quarter, a 20 per cent increase in total permits in the Strathcona Regional District and a 14 per cent rise in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

There were also positive signs in Nanaimo where investment spending on non-residential building construction in the Victoria metropolitan area rose for the fourth consecutive month.

Victoria’s residential building construction investment spending increased 8.1 per cent ending in November to $157 million which was bolstered by multi-unit dwellings, particularly apartments which increased 22.3 per cent to $88.08 million.

Despite some positive permit numbers, construction industry employment in the Vancouver Island-Coast region sunk 14.4 per cent during the fourth quarter (excluding Victoria) and 1.4 per cent in the Victoria metro area.

VICA stated this result was not consistent with other indicators of construction activity at that time.  

“While total building permits issued in 2020 came in one per cent below 2019’s level, the 2021 outlook is somewhat uncertain as a result of the pandemic,” said Kulmala. “Overall, I expect total building permits issued in 2021 will increase about five per cent over 2020, led by residential construction activity as demand for housing increases due to low interest rates, affordable home prices and provincial in-migration.”

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