Written by Robin MacLennan
What do half of the top 10 Canadian communities showing the most growth in value of building permits issued this year have in common? They are all located in Southwestern Ontario.
Guelph leads the pack, according to Statistics Canada figures released in July, with 154-per cent growth rate; followed by St. Catharines at 107 per cent, Hamilton at 51 per cent, Windsor at 43.8 per cent and London at 33.8.
Kingston took overall top honours for the first half of 2019, recording the highest year-over-year jump in the entire country with a whopping 445.4-per cent increase in construction activity. Thunder Bay just made the national top 10, with a 63.9-per-cent rise in construction activity.
Communities reporting the highest growth credit booming economies with investments in renovations, new homes, and commercial construction.
Hamilton continues to prosper from its location just down the QEW from Toronto where skyrocketing prices are driving people and businesses out of the market and to nearby communities.
“Our increase is particularly on the industrial side, where we are seeing a fair bit of growth,” said Glen Norton, Hamilton’s director of economic development. While development charges jumped on July 6, he says there is no evidence that the increase is responsible for a spike in activity.
Hamilton recorded over $800 million in construction activity from January to June 2019, compared to $619 million during the same period last year. Also, the city saw $1.26 billion in construction in 2018 – the second highest annual total ever.
“It’s good new for the city, absolutely,” Norton said. “The mandate of the economic development division . . . is to attract new investment and that’s what is happening. This means less of a burden on the taxpayers and more good jobs for Hamilton.”
The figures were produced with developers’ estimates for the value of their projects and then adding the estimates for a sense of how the construction sector is doing.
Norton says there is a good mix of projects happening across the municipality.
“We have a couple of big projects, but you can’t predict when a project is going to hit. Also, we are seeing a fair bit of movement out of Toronto.”
Increasing leasing costs are “pushing people to look for more affordable options outside of Toronto” and Hamilton is a good, more affordable location, Norton said.
About 60 per cent of the building permits issued in 2019 are housing “spill-over effects of Toronto prices.”
Windsor has issued permits worth $175 million in 2019, an increase of $35 million from last year. That city has recorded increases in all four categories including a $22 million jump in residential construction, $8.5 million in industrial, $4.2 million in commercial and $368,000 in government and industrial projects.
Construction has increased since the city spent $9 million to add sewage capacity at a treatment plant and reduced development charges.
In Hamilton, the growth is expected to continue into the fall.
“Generally, there has been an overall pick-up in activity,” Norton concluded. “We are going gangbusters.”