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Building boom bogs down in 2023 as torrid construction pace slows to steady stream

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 18th, 2023

The Nelson building boom has not bust but it has certainly slowed from the frenetic pace it has displayed over the last few years, according to recent figures released from the City.

The City of Nelson’s Development Services revealed that, although the number of building permits to-date is down slightly — from 86 to 84 — from last year, the estimated value of the permits is less than half.

Last year the city saw $31.7 million worth of building permits go out the door of City Hall, compared to just under $14 million this year in the same time frame. The majority of the permits and the estimated value ($4 million) has been taken up by three permits issued for development at 910 Lakeside Drive.

There have been eight single unit dwellings (including garages and carports) renovation and addition permits issued in 2023 for $383,000, while 12 for $848,960 were on record in 2022. There were five commercial and industrial permits issued this year — for $160,000 — compared to none last year.

There have been no new construction permits issued in 2023 for single unit dwellings, commercial and industrial, and government and institutional. Last year there were two single dwelling unit permits issued ($1.76 million) and two commercial and industrial ($15.5 million) permits handed out.

Single dwelling units — including single family homes, laneway homes and secondary suites — have dropped from 22 in 2022 to 16 in 2023 in the same calendar time frame, with multi-unit dwellings plummeting from 140 to-date in 2022 to only 18 this year.

The flatline does not mean construction has halted. In fact, there are several major projects still on the books, including the Culos Development on the waterfront, the Mount St. Francis development and the Vernon Street project.

With building and development ramping up in Nelson prior to this year the City had to hire new Development Services staff last year to facilitate 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. 

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 reflected the impact of COVID-19 — the number figure is still much higher than has traditionally occurred.

Dwelling units and development permits rose, peaked in 2019, dropped back down slightly for 2020 and then began to climb again in 2021 and 2022, rising slightly this year. 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.

Boom building

The building boom started early in 2022 and did not let up. Building permit statistics for the city for the first two months of the year showed an increase over 2021, also considered a very active construction year in the city.

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

However, the value of the permits had 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 accounted for one of the permits.

Categories: General

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