There’s reason for quiet optimism in the central Island area, despite lingering effects of an economic downturn.
That’s the message close to 200 audience members heard at the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Central Vancouver Island’s construction industry forum Thursday at the Coast Bastion Inn.
From the debt crisis in Europe and trade with China, to interest rates and investment opportunities in Nanaimo, speakers talked of a stable B.C. economy with slow growth in a number of sectors expected in 2012.
Toby Seward, city director of development, said there are people who want to invest in Nanaimo.
“2011 was a bit of a tough year, but it looks like 2012 is going to be a steady year,” he said. “We review the stats, review what’s going forward and the signs are looking good in our one- to five-year forecast.”
There are numerous sites in the city in terms of development, including the Sandstone project in Cedar, the Green Thumb Nursery property on Hammond Bay and the Madill property on Bowen Road, he said.
“Oceanview is still talking about moving ahead as well,” he said.
Bill Corsan, city manager of real estate, said investment opportunities are being driven by low interest rates, flattened land values, low vacancy rates and lack of rental products.
“We have two rental projects happening right now and I think the last one was in the 1990s,” he said.
Travis Archibald, Vancouver Island market analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said housing starts in Nanaimo fell in 2011, but remain relatively stable and a slight increase is forecast for this year.
“We also saw roughly 1,500 MLS transactions in 2011 and expect a slight increase to that in 2012, but nowhere near past levels,” he said. “Supply is relatively stable and there should be a bit of an increase in demand this year, but it is still a buyer’s market.”
Mark Lovick of RBC said Vancouver Island seems to be filtered from the sweeping economic challenges the rest of the world faces and continued low interest rates are good news.
“We don’t see the huge swings up or down,” he said. “On the Island, we’ve had virtually the same sales activity for the last four years.”
Doug Wittal, CHBA provincial president, detects a sense of optimism among homebuilders in the central Island and likes what he sees in terms of people stepping outside the box.
“We drive the market, we drive the economy and if you’re not willing to change your product and get into the new world, you’re not going to have a market and you’re not going to be working,” he said.
Wittal pointed to the Greenrock industrial park between Bowen and Boxwood roads and the Village at Summerhill townhouse project on Dufferin Crescent as two examples.
“You have to be innovative in today’s world,” he said. “Green and affordability are key words. That’s where we have to go.”