A bonafide building boom in Kamloops carries with it an economic spinoff and is paving the way for a growing community.
According to the city’s building permit report for November, Kamloops has, for the second year in a row, set a record in annual construction values. Through November, the city topped $262.6 million worth of building permits, surpassing last year’s record-setting $224 million. The previous record was $208 million, set in 2008.
“Around here, it doesn’t really seem like things are slowing down,” city building and engineering development manager Jason Dixon told KTW.
Overall permits issued are down (1,462 in 2018 compared to 1,750 in 2017), but industrial, institutional and multi-family construction are driving values. Essentially, there have been fewer projects, but they’ve been bigger.
Residential construction saw a shift from traditional single-family homes (permits down to $48.1 million in 2018 from $71.3 million in 2017) to multi-family projects (the city issued $96 million worth of multi-family permits in 2018, nearly doubling the $54-million figure in 2017).
Kelly Reid, president of the Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, said single-family home construction is hindered by lot shortages.
Apartments — permit values at $54.3 million in 2018 compared to $34 million in 2017 — are part of the story. As the city’s vacancy rate hovers around one per cent, the provincial NDP government has funded several affordable-housing projects in Kamloops, with the latest $6-million permit issued in November for the Spirit Square development on the North Shore.
“A lot of apartments and apartments for rental stock are part of it, which are needed,” Reid said.
Also well ahead of last year is institutional building permits, at $39.5 million, compared to $25.1 million in 2017. Hitting the books in November was Thompson Rivers University’s new nursing building. While university growth contributes to the city’s construction values, the university is also expanding as a result of the busy construction industry.
TRU school of trades education and technology chair Tom Haag said the new 55,000-square-foot industrial training and technology centre opened in September due to demand for trades people. TRU also added new training, including a refrigeration and air-conditioning program, and Haag said the number of trades students is expected to rise to 2,000 from the current enrolment of about 1,500.
“Just seeing the potential for growth,” he said. “We just looked at the need for the community, as well as the province. There’s a shortage [of trades workers] around the province.”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said the city as a whole is growing, with people moving to the city due to affordability.
While property values have increased locally, they continue to be lower than those found in the Lower Mainland.
Impacts of growth, Christian said, include a larger tax base from which to draw, certain stores (think Lululemon) opening as the city’s population increases and development of the city’s three cores: downtown, the Tranquille corridor and the Thompson Rivers University precinct.
It also means a busier commute to work, but the city hopes to alleviate pressure amid densification with alternative transportation.
Perhaps the most obvious impact from a bustling building industry is on mouths fed.
Reid said it has been a steady year, noting “everybody’s working.” Nearly 3,500 jobs are linked to residential construction, renovation and repair — from tradespeople to suppliers — and CHBA numbers state $207 million was paid last year in wages.
“If construction’s going well, then generally things are going well in terms of the economy,” he said.
Dixon estimated the city will reach between $275 million to $280 million in construction value by the end of the year. He does not expect that number to crest $300 million.
Next year’s construction value numbers will also likely be inflated, due to work on the $417-million patient-care tower at Royal Inland Hospital.