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Stage setting for continued building boom in city in 2022

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
March 19th, 2022

Nelson is in the early stages of another robust year for construction, according to early statistics from the city’s Development Services department.

Building permit statistics for the city for the first two months of the year show an increase over 2021, also considered a very active construction year in the city.

Digging into the numbers there have been 21 building permit applications submitted to the city’s Development Services to date (end of February), just behind the 29 issued in the same time frame in 2021.

However, the value of the permits has risen markedly, to $7.4 million to-date from $2.6 million, driven by $5.6-million worth of multi-unit dwellings. Single family residential homes only account for one of the permits so far.

With building and development showing no sign of slowing in Nelson the city has had to keep pace for its own part, hiring new Development Services staff last year and facilitating development in Nelson through the implementation of new rules for laneway housing.

The rules included increasing the allowable size for laneway houses in terms of the gross floor area, the building footprint, as well as the height.

The increased density allowed on lots in residential neighbourhoods was key to the changes, allowing people to construct three dwelling units on a lot (as long as they meet certain lot size requirements), as compared to previously only two units allowed on a lot. 

According to the research done on the impact of laneway housing, allowing greater densification provides an alternative housing solution to single family houses or condominiums, packing a smaller footprint than new single-family homes and less of a visual impact than taller, multi-family buildings. 

Hitting the slope

Since 2016 development construction values have been steadily increasing in Nelson, jumping from $15 million five years ago to over $45.7 million in 2019.

Although 2020 saw a decrease to $28.7 million — a decline that likely reflects the impact of COVID-19 — the number figure is still much higher than has traditionally occurred, noted a city staff report from last year.

“The city is still seeing significant construction, even in the face of rising construction materials costs. Similarly, issuance of building permits has steadily increased, from 166 permits in 2016 to over 200 in 2020.”

Dwelling units and development permits rose, peaked in 2019, dropped back down slightly for 2020 and then began to climb again in 2021. In 2016 there were a total of 30 dwelling units under construction in 2016, but four years later the total rose to 194, with a reduction to 61 units in 2020.

Permits followed a similar trajectory, increased from 52 permits in 2016 to over a 100 in 2019, and then down to 94 in 2020.

A look back

The 2018 construction season saw the real beginning of the current boom Nelson is in, not just by single family homes but with some larger projects in the city, including a 47-unit, four-storey development by Nelson Cares located close to Lakeside Park. 

The SHARE Housing Initiative — which consisted of a four-storey, 39-unit development with some commercial at grade — got underway that year, with the four-storey Nelson CARES development on Hall Street finalized that same year.

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