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North Bay construction values soar to record heights

'Demand for housing is at an all-time level. We need more housing. You're seeing all of our companies looking for workers, the jobs are vacant.'

As Mayor Al McDonald made his way from his vehicle to the podium at a media event announcing the final record-setting 2021 construction values in the City of North Bay, several tradespeople in the midst of building a new house in the Trillium Woods area of West Ferris called him over to chat.

They exchanged pleasantries and when McDonald asked how business was, they responded, "We can't keep up."

It's a common refrain municipal politicians are hearing from industry types and developers. By October 2021, North Bay had already surpassed its full-year record for construction values. McDonald stated then the goal was to extend the building record to finish 2021, then get 2022 off to a strong start before the third-term mayor would pass the baton off to his successor following the fall election.

Mission accomplished, as construction values for 2021 climbed to more than $150 million and McDonald shared construction activity so far this year is ahead of last year's record pace. 

See related: Council backs residential development as local real estate industry sees fewest new July listings in 35 years

Although the previous record of approximately $101 million — set in 2006 — was surpassed by the time of that October announcement, an additional $50 million worth of building permits were issued throughout November and December, leading to a year-end total of nearly $153.5 million. None of the figures are adjusted for inflation.

“This is the highest annual total construction value on record, far exceeding the 10-year average of $75 million,” said Mayor Al McDonald. “Despite the many challenges associated with the pandemic, our City continues to experience economic growth.”

See also: In a pandemic year, north's property value grows by hundreds of millions

Construction activity rose across all sectors in 2021, with residential experiencing the largest increase by ending the year at $78.4 million, up slightly from $72.6 million in October.

The 10-year average for total new dwelling units is 66 and that mark was shattered in 2021 as there were 245 new dwelling units built, of which 86 were single-detached dwellings, 138 were multi-residential units, 10 were semi-detached units, nine were secondary units and two were duplexes.

“It’s especially encouraging to see this level of residential construction,” said McDonald. “These new housing starts will bring much-needed new supply to the local market and help to ease the housing supply shortage that’s affecting the entire country.”

He added, "Demand for housing is at an all-time level. We need more housing. You're seeing all of our companies looking for workers, the jobs are vacant. I'm hearing that in my office. I want to encourage [the developers] to build more housing."

Affordable housing remains in short supply. Even as the Nipissing District Housing Corporation embarks on a project on Brookes Street with dozens of planned units, Coun. Dave Mendicino, Chair of NDHC acknowledged it would take 250 units to meet the demand.

"There is demand for affordable housing right up to high-end housing," observed McDonald. "Really, the demand is what the customer wants, that's what the developer will build. We need housing right across the board."

The largest increase since October was seen in the institutional sector, which ended the year with a total construction value of $51.1 million up from $15.8 million, due in large part to the $34-million Sienna long-term care build on the former St. Joseph's hospital site. Cassellholme redevelopment figures will be counted in this year's total.

Commercial building permits also increased to $9.5 million from $8.5 million. Industrial permits climbed to $12.2 million from $6.2 million.

McDonald thanked the families, businesses, and developers for their investments and for continuing to recognize the potential of the community.

“We’re expecting 2022 to be another busy year for construction and we’re already off to a strong start with January construction values up compared to the same period for the previous two years,” he concluded.