October 21st, 2020

Homebuilders working to recover from COVID downturn


By Jensen, Randy on August 29, 2020.

A BILD Alberta report released this week indicates Lethbridge’s home construction industry has seen recovery but overall numbers on new housing starts year-over-year are down significantly. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge’s home construction industry has recovered from its COVID tumble to rebound to at least pre-March levels, according to the latest BILD Alberta report released this week.

However, the overall numbers on new housing starts are down significantly year-over-year, and it may be awhile before its booming again, says BILD Lethbridge executive officer Bridget Mearns.

“It does look a little rough, for sure,” says Mearns referring to the report. “And to say otherwise would be silly. We are still seeing some sales, which is good, but we anticipate still having some soft numbers in housing starts through the remainder of the year. And perhaps even longer into 2021 and 2022.

“There are a number of things that are affecting that in the short term. There’s the uncertainty around what is happening with COVID. That’s the uncertainty around employment and consumer confidence, the cost of materials. You are already seeing the cost of lumber being an issue. And even in the supply chain, the cost of transportation and supplies we see as being a problem. That is all affecting housing starts.”

According to the BILD Alberta report construction on single-detached home starts in Lethbridge is down by 15 year-to-date from last year; single semi-attached or row home starts are up by nine; and multi-family units are down by 38, leaving a total of 42 fewer housing starts so far in Lethbridge this year over last.

Overall new-home sales are also down significantly from the 10-year average, and the total inventory of new homes in the city is lower than it has been in 10 years, confirms Mearns.

If there is a bright spot, Mearns says, it is that housing prices, when sales are made, are right around the 10-year average, and maybe even a little better.

“Real estate is a good investment, and it continues to gather value,” she says. “It is good to see that investment is there for people. Overall Lethbridge has a pretty affordable housing market, and we work hard to maintain that so ownership is possible. We work hard as an industry to do that. That’s important to us, and the quality of houses are out there and seeing more energy efficient things happening in housing builds and innovation. The industry continues to grow and evolve, and become better. And that is always exciting and fills me with optimism.”

Mearns also points out how the BILD Alberta report reflects what she has been saying for over a year – more people are now preferring multi-unit and single semi-detached dwellings in their new house search over the conventional single-family detached dwelling which was the norm in the past.

“Although single detached-housing is what people are wanting to aspire to, and that is certainly what they would like to have, often they will still start in multi-family housing or they are looking for a smaller unit,” she explains. “People may choose to start there, or even sometimes move on to that, price point is probably one of the biggest factors.”

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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