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2011 slow year in Victoria for new housing

Mar 06 2012

Victoria gained fewer than 200 new housing units in 2011 - less than half of what it netted the previous year.

There were a total of 82 building permits issued for demolitions, conversions and new construction of residential units last year, says a housing report prepared by the city's sustainability department.

The total net gain was 173 - less than half of the 369 in 2010 and less than 20 per cent of total in 2007, when there were 1,071 new units.

Very few of the permits issued were for multi-family dwellings. The majority were for single-family houses and secondary suites, according to the report.

Compared with previous years, few large-scale developments were started in 2011, it says.

Two large-scale developments were issued building permits - a housing fund project in Burnside Gorge for 52 units and a 36-unit strata development downtown. Both neighbourhoods also had eight-unit projects.

The rest of the building permits were for new single-family dwellings, secondary suites or additions to existing multi-unit buildings.

Thirty-two building permits were issued for secondary suites, down from 49 in 2010.

The report says the rental vacancy rate improved slightly, rising to 1.8 per cent from 1.3 per cent.

But that is still below the national average of 2.2 per cent.

The rental market experienced a slight increase in the number of units in 2010 in both the primary (28 units) and secondary/condo (165 units) markets, the report says.

The average rent increase was 1.5 per cent in 2011, slightly less than the 1.9 per cent increase in 2010.

The low rental vacancy rate is a sad comment, Coun. Chris Coleman said.

"We have always defined a housing emergency as current whenever the vacancy rate was below four per cent. I think it's about 27 years now we've been under four per cent.

We are one of the leaders in the lowest vacancy rate," he said.

Coun. Ben Isitt said he is concerned with the slow pace of growth in rentals.

"I don't believe the expansion of rental housing has kept pace with population growth," he said.

Twenty-four per cent of the strata condos being built are in the rental market - a percentage that has been steadily increasing in recent years.

"It's just as much a part of the rental market, and obviously a fairly significant one, as purpose-built [rental] units," Coun. Geoff Young said.

The overall total number of building permits in 2011 was 4,091, slightly lower than 4,210 in 2010. The 2011 total was almost 50 per cent higher than issued in 2000 (2,848), but the total value of permits was similar, with $103 million in 2000 and $118 million last year.

The highest total value recorded was in 2009, with $318 million on 3,609 permits.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com