City tops $1B mark in construction permits four years in a row
Construction in Hamilton has topped $1 billion for the fourth straight year.
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, the city’s chief building official Ed VanderWindt said the milestone was passed this month.
To the end of October the city reported sales of building permits for construction valued at more than $978.8 million. Another $21.2 million was added Nov. 9, bringing the annual total to just over $1 billion.
This is the fifth time in the past six years the city has topped the $1-billion permit mark — and there’s still just over seven weeks left in the year.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the blistering pace of local building is a testament to the city’s economic development strategy.
“A lot of it is due to business expansion and that is exactly our strategy to grow business in our community,” he said. “This is exactly what we want to see.”
The year-to-date numbers are still heavily weighted toward residential construction — 84.4 per cent. In fact industrial, commercial and institutional building is down more than 51 per cent for the year. Despite that, almost $230 million worth of industrial-commercial permits were sold.
Civic leaders want more commercial and industrial building to ensure people can work as well as live here and because that kind of assessment produces more tax revenue than it consumes in services.
“That’s not a problem we’re going to solve in the next two or three years,” Eisenberger said. “Right now we’ll take what we can get since we’re moving in the right direction.”
Neil Everson, director of Hamilton’s economic development department, said city council has set a clear direction to chase more business-related building, but the pace is being held back by a lack of employment land.
Suzanne Mammel, executive officer of the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association, said her members are building houses as fast as they can because demand is sizzling.
“The frank reality is that we’re in a ‘drive until you can afford it’ scenario,” she said. “People from Toronto just keep driving this way looking for the single-family home they can afford.”
While those home-seekers draw down the inventory of available new and resale homes, available land for building in Hamilton is slowly dwindling as builders creep closer to the city’s urban boundary.
Mammel and Everson both expect the demand for homes downtown and in the east end will accelerate as the new GO stations are completed.
Keanin Loomis, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, sees the building boom as the payoff for years of selling the city and its attractions.
“The city is really hitting its stride in terms of economic development after years of actively spreading the gospel of Hamilton,” he said.
He is largely untroubled by the imbalance between residential and industrial-commercial building because more residents translates to more potential trade for local businesses.
“It’s all positive, it doesn’t matter where it’s coming from because it means people want to live here,” he said. “You won’t hear our members complaining about having more customers living in the city.”
Joe Mancinelli, of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the pace of building has his union members at full employment and facing a pressing need for more skilled workers to meet intense demand.
“New houses are being built everywhere and they’re selling like hotcakes,” he said. “I don’t see any slowdown in that coming.”
Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator