Langford may have cut red tape for development permits, but that’s not lowering housing prices or increasing the number of available houses, as construction companies face delays and longer build times.
As of October, there were 1,276 residential units under construction, according to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics. That number has fluctuated over the past three years, after having doubled in a period of six months between May and November 2018, from 861 to 1,767. The number peaked in November 2019 at 1,967 units and has been mostly been slowly whittled down since then. The biggest decline was in December 2020, when 538 units were completed, the most since 2001.
But overall throughout the pandemic and before, construction has been slow, according to Pershing Sun, senior economic analyst with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Langford is moving towards more multi-storey housing builds, which take longer to complete. Supply chain issues have made getting building materials like lumber a tougher process and labour shortages haven’t eluded the construction industry, according to Sun.
Sun said these challenges aren’t unique to the West Shore, but with demand surging, it’s creating a tight market.
In the 10 years since 2011, Langford’s population has grown to 44,069, up from 30,156 in 2011. Langford was B.C.’s fastest growing community in 2019. While population estimates predict a slight slow-down, B.C. stats still projects the city’s population will grow by more than 3,000 people by 2025.
To meet demand and tackle affordability issues, Langford’s Mayor Stew Young has pushed for intensification, building the downtown area upwards versus outwards.
“I don’t want to do urban sprawl anymore,” Young said at council’s Nov. 17 meeting. “In a downtown core, you can’t be prosperous, you can’t have vitality with single family homes in the downtown core.”
The average price per absorbed housing unit has risen — the median price was $988,860 this year, up from $937,455 in 2020 and $877,706 in 2019. In 2011, the median absorbed price was $548,470.
Demand is helping fuel rising prices. The absorbed rate upon completion — the proportion of newly constructed housing units that are sold before they’re completed — was at 100 per cent in Langford in November, as it was for much of 2021. The rate hasn’t dipped below 92 per cent since October 2020.
“We can see the tightness of the market where people have been showing interest in new builds and it takes longer for them to complete,” said Sun. “Supply can’t really catch up with demand basically, which has pushed the prices to rise quite a bit.”
The total inventory of unsold housing units in Langford in November of this year was three. For the past 12 months, it has been in single digits, apart from February and March of this year, when it peaked at 12 and 11, respectively. Since construction amped up in 2018, the number of unabsorbed units peaked at 64 in December 2019.
“We don’t want to leave people behind and families out here just to be renting for the next 30-40 years,” Young said in an interview with Black Press. “We’ve got to find opportunities for them to do home ownership.”
“I want Langford to be the most modern city in Canada, and we’re building towards that,” he added.
Young said while he has pushed for Langford to be a hub for the West Shore, the other municipalities in the area need to step up their approval of developments.