The City of North Bay is announcing it is experiencing its biggest year for building with year-to-date construction values exceeding $105 million.
The City says the primary driver of this year’s record-setting numbers has been a significant increase in residential construction, up to $72.6 million, more than double the highest total of the past decade — set in 2011 — of $35.7 million.
“We have never seen more construction activity in the City of North Bay,” says Mayor Al McDonald during a press conference from City Hall, Wednesday, to tout the record numbers and thank North Bay City Council and City staff for their efforts.
“We are extremely pleased and very appreciative that families, businesses, and developers continue to recognize the potential of our City and are investing in our community,” McDonald says.
The year-to-date total construction value of $72.6 million represents a total of 236 new dwelling units, including 79 single-family dwellings, 137 multi-residential units, 10 semi-detached units, eight secondary units and two new duplexes.
Asked about the deficit of affordable and geared-to-income housing available to locals, McDonald acknowledged it remains a problem and the solution lies in partnerships with the other levels of government and includes working with the DNSSAB's Nipissing District Housing Corporation.
"We want to encourage DNSSAB to build more affordable housing for those that really need it — but what we can do [as the City] is make it easier for the home builders to build the smaller homes."
The Mayor says he hears from citizens who are looking for a home that is accessible, all on one level, about 1,200 to 1,500 square feet in area.
"But, there is still a great demand for the bigger housing," McDonald adds. "So, that is one of the things that we've challenged our staff and our economic development department is to see how we make it easier for the local home builders to build the smaller homes for first-time home buyers or to make them accessible to many more citizens."
With the 2019 moratorium on "residential development charges and the introduction of new economic development initiatives, the City of North Bay was well-positioned to benefit from the housing boom created by the pandemic,” observes McDonald, who highlighted the Growth Community Improvement Plan, an intensified Business Retention and Expansion program and strategic investments in infrastructure as examples.
The trade-off between pausing the collection of development fees and growing the tax base has been a success, according to McDonald. He notes it is a useful tool in attracting developers although stopped short of guaranteeing lower taxes for residents as a result.
With two more months to go, the year-to-date total construction value of $105,156,922 has already surpassed the previous record set in 2006 of approximately $101 million worth of construction. The year-to-date total has also outpaced last year’s total of $57.5 million and is up over the pre-pandemic total of $93.3 million in 2019.
Commercial and industrial building permits, now totalling approximately $8.5 million and $15.8 million, respectively, are also both up over 2020's year-end figures,
“Construction values are one of the benchmarks that we can use to help understand and assess economic growth, so we’re certainly encouraged by the level of residential development that we’re seeing,” McDonald says.
The Mayor, who reiterated he will not seek a fourth term during the press conference, is hoping to pass the baton to his eventual successor next fall after getting the 2022 construction season off to an even more lucrative start — all while continuing the growth mandate set out by this Council elected in 2018.
“We’re optimistic that we will continue to see our numbers increase over the next two months and that we will finish the year in an even stronger position," McDonald expresses, later adding, "we want to beat this record next year."