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Housing shortage predicted in Comox Valley in coming years

Regional district’s “housing needs” report shows bad report card for housing supply in Comox Valley
A tradesperson works on Palace Place while the building takes on a new look in downtown Courtenay. The multi-use residential building is scheduled to be available May 2024. It is one of the not-enough housing developments in Comox Valley, according to a recent housing needs report. Photo taken January 25, 2024. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Local government predicts a growing housing shortage in Comox Valley over the next decade.

The Comox Valley Regional District released a housing needs report on Tuesday (April 9) that estimates the Valley will have a shortage of 2,095 dwelling units before five years have passed. The shortage is predicted to grow until 2043.

“It is expected that the gap between supply and demand may widen,” reads the report. “Albeit at a gradually slowing rate.”

The Valley has amassed an estimated shortage of 720 units in recent years, the report says. The trend is projected to continue, so there’s a big task ahead for the construction industry in Comox Valley.

“The CVRD may need to build 13,480 new units across the housing spectrum by 2043 to address new housing demand and mitigate increased market imbalances,” reads the report.

Figures in the report are considered “ballpark” according to the district as the figures are calculated using several sources of data such as numbers from BC Assessment and Statistics Canada.

A construction worker lays wood at the site of Palace Place, a mixed residential and commercial building going up in downtown Courtenay. Photo taken May 2023. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Market imbalances tied to rising prices

The report shows how the rental market in Comox Valley changed dramatically after the past five years. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased from an estimated $790 per month to $1,420 between 2019 and 2023, the report says.

The increase can be tied to low supply. The report estimates that nearly all rentals in the Valley have been used for the past ten years — and this situation typically will be “giving landlords greater leverage to increase rents.”

RELATED: Courtenay saw few housing builds last year, says city report

Sales prices have also surged in Comox Valley.

Between 2019 and 2022, the sale price for a dwelling in Comox Valley rose by an average of 64 per cent, the report states. The median sale in 2019 was listed as roughly $469,000 while the median sale in 2022 was listed as $769,000.

The trend took a dip in most recent data, however. BC Assessment in January released a report showing home values dropped in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland for the 2024 year, the largest dip being seven per cent in Cumberland.

The Board of elected officials at Comox Valley Regional District has approved a plan to phase out fossil fuels. In order to heat households in the absence of fossil fuels like natural gas, the local government aims for households to pay $10,000 to install emerging “heat pump” technology. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Green initiatives likely to raise housing prices, says developer

Besides supply and demand, there may be other forces at work affecting the cost of housing.

A local property developer in November last year told the Record that green initiatives would have a direct effect on rent. Developer Shawn Vincent at the time said the Comox Valley Regional District’s choice to implement a provincial “Zero Carbon Step Code” would hike costs for developers and lead consumers to pay higher prices.

RELATED: Citizens asked to renovate homes as part of GHG plan in Comox Valley

The building code is set out by the Province of BC as something local governments can use voluntarily to restrict emissions in new buildings. According to Vincent, this would lead developers to face higher costs to build green-friendly buildings, and they would subsequently charge higher rent or purchase prices to consumers to maintain their profits.

The April housing-needs report from the regional district is designed to provide an outlook for the local government that can help by informing land use decisions, and “provides an overview of existing gaps, shedding light on potential opportunities crucial for housing provision.”

The report can also help local government advocate for more support from higher governments by establishing its needs in a hard-evidence report.

RELATED: Property values down in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland

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