Sooke construction continues to boom

Sooke has seen a 37 percent increase of building permits issued so far this year

Sooke has seen a 37 percent increase in building permits issued so far this year, but the increased pace of construction is tempered with the lack of skilled workers, says the chief executive officer of the Vancouver Island Construction Association.

A total of 122 building permits were issued in Sooke between Jan. 1 and June 30, breaking away from the same period last year when 84 permits were issued.

“It’s really good news, with a a lot of hot activity,” said Rory Kulmala. “There’s a lack of skilled workers that makes it a challenge which is cooling growth.”

Kulmala said the problem is there’s simply not enough young people going into the trades. Meanwhile, construction crews are working full-out on the Island, and every year face more people retiring.

”If we had more workers we could probably deliver a bit more project. I think when everything starts to settle down, we’ll be in a better position to deliver the projects,” Kulmala said.

Despite the shortage of labour, the construction industry continues to hum on the Island.

The Capital Regional District has seen higher residential activity and a surge in commercial permits from April to June, with the Capital Regional District seeing a 64 percent jump in the first quarter.

Sooke is in a perfect situation, Kulmala said.

“The residential market is really strong and there’s a strong economy,” he said. “It’s really attractive to young families where people are willing to commute because housing is a little more affordable.”

Mayor Maja Tait isn’t surprised with the construction boom locally, either, but would like to see more commercial development.

“I would like to see an increase in the commercial side because that means there’s more employment here and more business opportunities available, and that in turn then lessens the dependence on Highway 14,” she said.

Tait said it’s important that Sooke have in place policies that are conducive to good development.

Recently, a Victoria Residential Builders Association survey found Sooke and Langford were the fastest in issuing building permits in the region, with a two-week turnaround, while Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay were the slowest. The average turnaround in the Greater Victoria region was between four to eight weeks.

“We have excellent staff, but there’s always room for service improvement and council needs to give a reasonable approach to each application and stay true to its priorities,” Tait said.

klaird@blackpress.ca

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