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Vision 2013: It’s a slow build
The housing construction bubble in Cowichan was a balloon in the first decade of the new millenium. Then it burst.
And despite some positive signs, home building has yet to re-inflate, at least not so far.
North Cowichan has not seen much new residential development this year, a situation echoed by staff at the regional district.
According to CVRD building inspector Brian Duncan, housing development in the CVRD has slowed considerably in recent years.
But he is starting to see signs of improvement.
“The market is picking up now. It’s moving at a snail’s pace, but it’s picking up quicker than it slowed down,” said Duncan. “It took 2 1/2 years to slow down, I don’t think it will take that long to pick back up, but that’s just a prediction.”
The first six months of this year saw 67 new housing starts in the CVRD area.
“In 2010, which was a boom year, we were at 150 new homes a year, and we’ve been slowing down,” said Duncan. “In 2011 we were at 105, in 2012 we were down to 80, and now this year we are like I said at 65 to 70. But that was in June. July has picked up considerably.”
North Cowichan’s director of planning Scott Mack said the municipality’s development at the moment is weighted to commercial property.
“There’s not a lot of residential development activity.”
There are two new mixed-use buildings. The Rosco is located on the edge of Duncan, at James Street and Garden. The Crofton Muse is located on Joan Avenue, said orth Cowichan deputy planning director Brian Green. Both buildings are four stories, will house 15 and 17 residential units respectively, and have commercial spaces located on the ground floors.
The largest residential development underway in North Cowichan is for single-family homes on Casino Road.
“It’s what will ultimately be an 83-lot bare-lands strata development,” said Mack. “They’re just doing the first phase now, and I believe it’s between 22 and 24 lots.”
Another large project is Stone Manor Estates off Government Street. The project, underway for several years now, is selling phase two, with the first phase of development 90 per cent sold.
“There will be a total of 66 units in that area, which is not fully built up yet. I’m not sure when it’s set to finish,” said Green.
Even though residential development is flat, total construction value for North Cowichan is on track to match the previous two years.
By the end of May 2013, there were 114 building permits issued, and just over $18.5 million in construction value. The total values for all of 2011 and 2012 were just over $41 million each. Those years respectively saw 262 and 297 permits issued —a reachable mark for this year, said Green.
Meanwhile, many valley contractors have been doing renovation work to keep busy until new housing development picks up again.
“It’s been a very tough 2 1/2 years here in the Cowichan Valley,” said Duncan.
“I had one contractor come in here the other day to pick up a building permit, and he said to me, ‘this is the first new house I’ve built in two years,’”
“He’s a well-known house builder around here. For him to say that we know the market is tough.”