CPABC: Northeast B.C. housing starts slow in 2022, but major project activity continues to bring investment

CPABC: Northeast B.C. housing starts slow in 2022, but major project activity continues to bring investment



FORT ST. JOHN, March 31, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to *BC Check-Up: Invest*, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on investment trends across the province, the number of housing units that began construction in Northeast B.C.’s largest municipalities decreased 44.2 per cent in 2022, compared to the number started in 2021.“In 2022, the number of units started in the two major population centers in Northeast B.C. fell to the lowest level in the past two decades,” said Ben Sander, FCPA, FCA, partner at Sander Rose Bone Grindle. “However, this decline corresponds with low population growth and declining housing demand in the region.”

Over the course of 2022, 63 housing units began construction in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, down from the 113 units started in 2021 and the annual average of 109 from 2016 to 2020. Breaking it down by municipality, there were 60 housing starts in Fort St. John and 3 in Dawson Creek in 2022, compared to 104 and 9 in 2021, respectively. Meanwhile, Northeast B.C.’s population growth was just 54 from 2021 to 2022.

“The region’s housing supply has kept pace with population growth, which has helped housing remain much more affordable here than in other regions in B.C.,” continued Sander. “While residential investment has been low in the region, investment into major projects continues to be high.”

Collectively, major projects currently proposed, under construction, or on hold were worth $44.7 billion as of Q3 2022, accounting for 11.5 per cent of all major projects across the province. This was down from the $45.2 in Q3 2021 due to the completion of the Spruce Ridge Expansion Project ($565 million).

“The largest construction projects across Northeast B.C. continue to be natural resource projects, particularly BC Hydro related,” continued Sander. “These projects bring a significant amount of capital and economic activity to the region, with Site C alone employing nearly 4,800 workers at the start of this year.”

In Q3 2022, there were 10 projects worth $23.0 billion under construction across the region, the largest being the $16.0 billion Site C Project. In the same period, there were 23 proposed projects, with an estimated capital cost of $14.7 billion, including the most recently proposed Hydrogen Electrolyzer Plant in Chetwynd ($200 million).

“While major project activity is an important driver of economic activity in the region, one area of concern is that many local residents and businesses of nearby municipalities are not yet seeing benefits from these investments,” concluded Sander. “That will change once these projects are completed and employ local residents, but going forward we need to examine ways that major project activity can be more immediately benefit residents of Northeast B.C.”

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The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 39,000 CPA members and 6,000 CPA students. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.

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Aaron Aerts, Economist

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