C/O Saskatoon Star Phoenix
By Phil Tank
More apartments and other multi-unit dwellings are planned for construction in Saskatoon, driven in part by the high price of singlefamily homes.The number of multi-family units - including apartments, condos and townhouses - expected to be built, based on building permits issued this year, tops 1,600 for the first time. Meanwhile, while the number of single-family unit permits is on track to decline over 2012 to 1,252. It's the first such drop in five years.
A City of Saskatoon report on the housing plan for the next three years shows the disparity is about to become more pronounced, if the projected servicing of units is an accurate indication. Of the 2,949 housing units serviced this year, 1,722 (58 per cent) are singlefamily homes and 1,222 are multi-family units.
By 2016, that breakdown is expected to shift substantially, with single-family servicing reduced to just 39 per cent or 1,937 units out of 4,971 total units, while multi-family servicing is expected to climb to 61 per cent or 3,304 units.
Jason Yochim, executive officer with the Saskatoon Region Association of Realtors, said the shift is happening in part because single-family homes have jumped so much in price. "It's to create the product that the market's demanding," Yochim said.
In total, developers are expected to service enough land in the next three years to accommodate 16,700 new residential units. For the second straight year, combined residential and non-residential building permits are expected to top $1 billion in Saskatoon.
"The city land bank is looking at the market very optimistically lately," said the city's land bank manager, Frank Long. "We are planning for continued population growth in and around three to four per cent. A 'new normal' is what we're calling it here in the industry." Long said the projections are market-driven, even though they also conform to the greater urban density the city is seeking.
Ward 2 Coun. Pat Lorje, however, told Tuesday's planning and operations committee
meeting that not everyone appreciates having an apartment building in their neighbourhood.
"We've been talking about infill like it's the Holy Grail and everyone's going to love it," Lorje said. "They don't welcome it with open arms."
Lorje said infill developments in established areas fail to take into account that the neighbourhoods were not necessarily designed for greater density. "It's just not sustainable in terms of traffic flow," she said.
Yochim said some developers choose infill developments in established areas over new developments on the outskirts of the city because the development charges on new serviced lots make it so expensive.
Housing starts were up 12.5 per cent in 2012 over 2011, at 3,369, while the value of residential building permits hit $654,362,000 in 2012, up 15.1 per cent over 2011. Of the 16,694 units expected to be serviced from 2013 to 2016, 9,215 are expected to be multi-family units, while 7,479 are expected to be single family. It's not just housing that's expected to keep booming. From 2013 to 2016, developers plan to service about 490 acres of industrial land, mostly in the Marquis industrial area, and about 180 acres of commercial land.
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