BUSINESS

Mayor credits Vancouver's economic strategy for highest building permit values

01/14/2015 03:32 EST | Updated 03/16/2015 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - The mayor of Vancouver is crediting the city's economic strategy for record-high building permit values of $2.8 billion.

Gregor Robertson said low taxes, less red tape and innovative incentive programs are helping to attract new investment and a boom in office space.

The city said in a news release Wednesday that building permit values in 2014 increased by 28 per cent from the previous year, and by 77 per cent over the 2008 figure.

Among the developments touted by the city is the $287-million construction of a new facility at BC Children's Hospital as a key contributor to the increase in permit values last year.

Tsur Somerville, director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the University of B.C., said the hospital project represents 10 per cent of last year's permit values, but it's just one development.

It's not surprising that building permit values have risen sharply, but that has more to do with inflation than any economic plan, Somerville said.

Removing that one project would bring permit values down to 2012 levels, he noted.

Construction of bigger homes has also added to the value of building permits, but that does not amount to more housing starts in a city where affordability is a big issue, Somerville said.

"If old houses are torn down and really big houses are being built for wealthy households to purchase then you get increases in permits but I wouldn't say that's a successful city strategy," he said.

"It's wonderful to have an action plan but I think it's a little bit hasty to look at 2014 permit numbers and tie those things together."

Somerville said office-space construction is cyclical and has increased in the last few years after little development between 2008 and 2010.