Huge increase in construction activity kicked off 2021 in Kelowna

The City of Kelowna issued building permits worth about $500 million in the first three months of 2021.

That’s four times the value of permits issued in the first quarter of a typical year and more than for all of 2020 when permit values totalled $492 million for the entire year, states a report going to city council on Monday, June 21.

Because of the COVID pandemic, the value of building permits fell significantly in Kelowna in 2020 but the data shows the city to be on a strong upward trajectory that could match or exceed peak years in the past.

One of the key reasons for the increase is that new charges for park development came into effect on Feb. 10. That sparked a rush by developers to get their permits in place before they had to pay the increased fees.

That meant that $400 million of the $500 million worth of permits in the first three months were issued in the first five weeks of the year.

Strong demand for housing and low interest rates were also cited as key reasons for the surge in building permit applications.

While construction switched more to lower risk single-family homes during the pandemic, that turns out to be an anomaly that is being corrected.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, about 67 per cent of new homes were multi-family dwellings. For the first three months of this year, 87 per cent of permits were for multi-family.

Permits were issued for 1,780 housing units in the first three months of 2021. That compares to a five year average of 388.

Based on real estate and development data, city staff expect construction to continue at a high level not only for the rest of this year but, at least, for the two years following.

“Staff are also tracking several large-scale development applications that will be moving into the council process in the first half of 2021,” the report states.

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