The value of building permits throughout the Capital Regional District slumped 15 per cent between September and October.
The decline is even sharper, at 38 per cent, when comparing October 2011 to the same month last year, according to new figures by Statistics Canada.
A dip in large projects after a busy summer is mostly to blame, according to the Vancouver Island Construction Association. Municipal statistics from Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich, however, provide a more nuanced picture of the overall decline.
The number of building permits issued in Oak Bay is down in 2011 from 2010, but it’s substantially higher than any other year since 2007.
A total of 747 permits have been issued so far this year, at a value of just over $34 million. Last year saw 815 permits issued, valued at nearly $93 million, thanks largely to the Oak Bay beach hotel development.
In Victoria, the raw number of building permits issued has actually increased every year since 2007.
So far this year, the number of permits issued reached 3,805 in the city, up from 3,383 five years ago. The value of building permits, however, has dropped $25 million since last year, and nearly $200 million since the pre-recession era of 2007.
A look at the types of permits approved helps to explain the opposing trend lines.
On the one hand, commercial and multi-family building is down, while interior home renovations are booming.
Saanich-based home renovator Steve Burgess attributes the trend to the world economy.
“I think the big one for a lot of people is job security,” he said. “People are not doing the big additions, but yeah, they’ll go ahead with the kitchen or bathroom reno – the small stuff.”
Burgess’ own business, Toolbox Renovations, has increased lately and he speculates it’s due partly to improvements to his website and partly due to wider economic trends.
While residential building permits are on the decline in Victoria, the opposite is true for Saanich.
In fact, the number of residential building permits issued in 2011 far surpasses any year since 2007. To date, 295 units have been approved in Saanich this year, mostly for apartment-style housing.