PEI

'Everyone is pretty much at their limit': Business booming for Charlottetown home builders

Builders in Charlottetown say after a few years of struggling to make money, the industry is booming again in the P.E.I. capital.

'I think everybody is probably at capacity in terms of what they can do in managing builds'

The Canadian Home Builders Association of P.E.I. says builders in Charlottetown have taken on about as much work as they can handle right now. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Builders in Charlottetown say after a few years of struggling to make money, the industry is booming again in the P.E.I. capital.

"I sleep a lot better, there's a lot less stress, and the work is there for the foreseeable future," said developer Warren Doiron. "It's just a great time to be a builder in Charlottetown."

Starting in 2013, when the province implemented a 14 per cent HST — builders complained the additional tax made home building too expensive for Islanders, and crippled the industry

I sleep a lot better, there's a lot less stress.- Warren Doiron, Charlottetown developer 

But now — less than a year after the HST increased another percentage point to 15 per cent — builders say the industry has rebounded. 

According to numbers out this month from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing starts in Charlottetown and Summerside are up 46 per cent in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year.

"Right now, I think everybody is probably at capacity in terms of what they can do in managing builds," said Todd MacEwen, executive director of the Canadian Home Builders' Association of P.E.I. "I've heard reports that everyone is pretty much at their limit in terms of work through the spring, summer, and fall."

'It's a great time to be a builder in Charlottetown,' says developer Warren Doiron. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Immigration driving building boom 

Doiron said nearly half of his new found business has come from new immigrants. 

He said they're choosing to build because existing homes in Charlottetown are in short supply and selling quickly. Doiron added that the HST doesn't seem to be a deterrent for most newcomers. 

"The price seems to be where they can still afford it," he said. "The newcomers they arrive, and most of them are wealthy, and they don't have any problem getting a mortgage, or they don't need a mortgage sometimes."

Builders say existing homes on the market in Charlottetown are in short supply and selling quickly, forcing more Islanders to build new. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Builders association still wants HST rebate

But the Canadian Home Builders' Association of P.E.I. maintains building a new home would be an option for more Islanders if the province offered an HST rebate. 

"I think it's a tool to encourage more growth and development, where there are more jobs created, more property tax revenue for the province," said MacEwen. "So at the end of the day everything balances out that way."

The Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development did recommend the province consider a rebate in April 2016. 

The government said the idea has been discussed, but hasn't said whether it plans to follow through.

Land shortage? 

At least for Islanders hoping to build a house in Charlottetown, Doiron's not certain that will even be an option in a couple of years. 

"The land is going to come to an end within two years, maybe three at the most," said Doiron. 

The Canadian Home Builders' Association of P.E.I. suspects that will push more people to consider building outside of Charlottetown. 

"I think if the Charlottetown market continues to grow, that will have a positive effect on places like Summerside and smaller communities across the Island as well."

 CMHC has yet to release its 2017 housing start numbers for P.E.I. as a whole.

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