Secondary suites popular in new home builds in Nanaimo

NANAIMO - Secondary suites help buyers deal with rising costs of home ownership.

Secondary suites are now the norm, not the exception, in new home construction as Nanaimo’s building boom continues through 2016.

The city recently reported a year-to-date figure of nearly $100 million in new construction permits taken out for the first half of 2016, a 12-per cent jump over the same period last year.

The dollar values of individual construction permits and their combined yearly totals have been rising since 2013.

Year-to-date residential single family dwelling permits account for more than $52 million, compared with just over $46 million for 2015, in spite of a slightly fewer single-family home starts: 156 this year versus 161 in 2015.

“Part of that is due to increased costs of construction,” said Tom Weinreich, city building inspections manager.  “A lot of the lots now are more difficult to build on, which really means it’s more expensive to build, but of course, some of these new houses that are building are pretty expensive.”

Permits for secondary suites are up. So far 97, or 63 per cent of, new home construction permits include secondary suites. That’s up from 53 per cent for the first half of last year.

“It comes to affordability of housing and also the trend of having your parents move into a basement suite,” said Janice Stromar, Vancouver Island Real Estate Board president-elect. “I think it speaks to the prices going up and people needing mortgage helpers to make ends meet and it’s also our most popular type of home, so if you’re building with resale in mind it’s a good idea.”

Commercial and multi-family resident developments are carrying the bulk of the balance of construction permit values at nearly $41 million, up from about $35 million in 2015. The new Malaspina Care Residence on Twelfth Street alone accounts for more than $12 million and a new Lowes store at Nanaimo North Town Centre another $3 million.

Weinreich expects 2016 construction values to continue to be on par or higher for rest of 2016.

“We’ve had a couple of applications recently that won’t reflect until they’re issued,” Weinreich said, citing a $9 million facility and electrical upgrade for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and two apartment buildings with permit applications totalling $11 million combined, plus some housing subdivisions.

“So we’re getting some pretty decent demand coming through the door,” he said.

Until that inventory is built, though, real estate is still in short supply and Nanaimo is still a seller’s market, Stromar said.