British Columbia

Kitimat real estate sizzles after LNG announcement

In the aftermath of the announcement on Oct. 2 that Kitimat's $40-billion liquefied natural gas project will be going ahead, a local real estate agent says the community's housing market has taken off in a "fast and furious" way.

'I'm not sure any of us were quite prepared for what we've seen in the last 14 days'

A 34,000-ton heavy lift vessel carrying barges for LNG Canada is completing pre-construction work in Kitimat harbour, to prepare the existing port for larger vessels once the new $40-billion natural gas export facility is constructed. (YouTube/LNG Canada)

In the aftermath of the announcement on Oct. 2 that Kitimat's $40-billion liquefied natural gas project will be going ahead, a local real estate agent says the community's housing market has taken off in a "fast and furious" way.

Real estate agent Shannon Dos Santos says the flurry of activity started immediately.

"I'm not sure any of us were quite prepared for what we've seen in the last 14 days," Dos Santos said. "We have seven agents on the ground and we've been run right off of our feet."

Dos Santos says a lot of the buyers she has worked with have been out-of-town investors who are hoping to secure property that they could then use as rentals for the coming boom.

"We don't have a lot of locals," she said. "I think in all of the sales I saw last week I only saw one offer come from another agent from a local buyer, a first-time home buyer."

Influx of workers expected

The LNG Canada project will see a pipeline carrying natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to a new processing plant on the coast in Kitimat. There, the gas would be liquefied for overseas export.

Final approval has been given for a $40-billion liquefied natural gas plant and pipeline for Northern B.C. The 670-kilometre pipeline will run natural gas from Dawson Creek to the plant in Kitimat, which will liquefy and export the gas to Asia. (CBC News)

The project is expected to employ as many as 10,000 people in the construction phase and up to 950 in full-time jobs.

Dos Santos says the increased real estate activity echoes another time population boomed in the community— when Rio Tinto conducted its modernization project at the alumninum smelter in 2012.

But this time, she says, the market change has been much more dramatic. 

"This happened fast and furious," she said. "I just thought it would be a little bit more gradual. We're a ways away from, you know, the camp workers actually coming in."

Affordable housing concerns 

The rapid real estate heat-up has some local politicians concerned. 

Mayoral candidate and incumbent Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth said he wants to work with the provincial and federal governments to secure more affordable housing in the community.

He noted that Kitimat might end up facing issues with vacant housing if buyers simply use property as an investment instead of living in them or renting them out.

"There could be something in place where you could ensure people buying houses were going to be living in them," Germuth suggested. 

Candidate David Johnston, who is challenging Germuth for the mayoralty, said he would also like the provincial government to take a closer look at the issue of affordable housing, especially in light of a major project like LNG.  

"I would like to lobby the NDP government in B.C. to really take a step and start making some actual decisions and actually doing something about it," Johnston said. 

With files from Daybreak North

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