For the third time since 1907, the City of Saskatoon has issued building permits worth more than $1 billion. Despite the ongoing commodities downturn, Saskatoon’s construction sector proved “robust” last year,” according to Kara Fagnou, the city’s director of building standards.
Saskatoon issued 4,327 building permits last year, down 13.4 per cent from the 4,996 issued in 2014. At the same time, the value of those permits rose to $1.02 billion, up 16.2 per cent from $878.2 million, according to a report submitted to city council’s committee on planning, development and community services.
The municipal record was set in 2012, when the city issued 5,196 permits worth $1.08 billion. The city first crossed the $100 million threshold in 1975 but did not reach the $500 million mark until 2007, at the beginning of the resource boom.
The city issued nine permits valued at more than $10 million last year, which accounted for $353 million, or 34 per cent, of the $1.02 billion total. A $163 million addition to the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan was by far the largest of those.
Compared to 2014, the value of residential building permits slid 32.5 per cent, or $128 million, while industrial and institutional permits jumped 147.8 per cent, or $111.9 million, and 323.3 per cent, or $190.6 million, respectively.
Fagnou said an increase in the number of large commercial and institutional projects offset a decline in the value of residential construction permits, which she attributed to an increase in renovations and a decrease in new builds.
“(That) tells us that we continued to have a lot of businesses thriving in Saskatoon, whether it be from industrial buildings being built or new apartments … and those public projects that were being built were key last year,” she said.
Jason Duke, vice-chair of the Saskatchewan Construction Association, said construction is a “lagging indicator” of economic health, which is why Saskatoon experienced strong construction growth during a year characterized by sluggishness.
The number and value of building permits issued in Saskatoon next year is expected to be similar to this year, with the exception of large institutional projects like the Children’s Hospital, “which may not be as high,” Fagnou said.
Duke agreed, noting that while institutional and public construction may slow down, the overall outlook is for “steady growth” in the city’s residential and non-residential construction sectors next year.