By Ian Ross
Though Sudbury home building was up modestly in 2001, the residential housing market continues to be mired in a seven-year slump. According to regional building services for the city, 202 units were created last year, up slightly from 188 the year before, but still the city’s third-worst year since 1974.
Warren Philp, market analyst for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says single starts were up 191 units, a slight improvement from 173 in 2000, considering the unemployment rate inched up 4.1 per cent last year.
But it is still a far cry from the peak home construction years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, where home starts maxed out at 2,485 units in 1991.
"There's been a whole restructuring of the Northern Ontario economy," says Philp. "We're primarily a resource-oriented economy and there's been significant downsizing in some of the our traditional industries due to the need to become more competitive, and with mechanization that's occurred in those industries."
That has translated to sluggish residential construction and a weak employment market, he adds. The result is that consumers either leave town or look for cheaper accommodations, as evident in the 2001 resale market numbers of 1,937, up 6.1 per cent from 2000, he points out.
Philp says Sudbury remains a homebuyer’s market with the average price hovering around $107,774, down 1.4 per cent in 2000, and noticeably dropping from the 1992 average price of $116,000.
The biggest construction story in Sudbury, is the one that is not. With costs of the city's single-site regional hospital going through the roof, the project was shut down this winter pending completion of an operational review as ordered by the province. But it improved the overall total value of construction last year, topping out at $124 million, compared to $102 million in 2000, Philp says.
Institutional sector spending fared the best, up 92 per cent, and residential by four per cent. The commercial building sector took a 39-per-cent dive, as did the industrial sector by 29 per cent. Regional building figures show the total number of building permits issued in 2001 made a marked improvement jumping to 1865, up from 1517 the year before.
But overall, it was no match for the building boom years between 1989 and 1991 when more than $200 million annually was spent locally.