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New Frame Lake homes

Urbco posts record results

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/01) - Yellowknife could soon have residential relief from the housing crunch in the form of 60 new homes.

NNSL Photo

James Britton: "It hasn't been terribly rewarding for us and our shareholders. People have a difficult time."

Urbco Inc. is considering developing a piece of land in the Frame Lake south area that would see the construction of roughly 60 new homes, said company president and CEO James Britton at the company's annual general meeting in Yellowknife last Wednesday.

The land is under option and Urbco must make a decision by Dec. 31.

Britton said the Calgary-based company is also looking at other rental and construction options in Yellowknife.

Although Urbco has built 200 homes in Yellowknife over the years, Britton said building affordable housing and turning a profit in Yellowknife do not go hand in hand, not yet anyway.

"It hasn't been terribly rewarding for us and our shareholders," said Britton. "People have a difficult time, and I don't blame them, with the idea of spending $180,000 on a trailer," he said. "But when you add up all the costs associated with doing these things, that's what it costs."

Britton said developing land in the North costs two to three times more than in the south.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city is working on ways to help lower Urbco's development costs.

He said the city can change development standards to lower the cost threshold. Van Tighem hopes the GNWT will also step in and help subsidize costs.

Urbco is the largest residential and commercial property owner in both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Urbco also owns Ninety North Construction and Development Ltd., one of northern Canada's largest building contractors.

Ninety North won several major construction projects late in the fiscal year, including a $37-million contract for the design and construction of the Inuvik hospital on a joint venture basis with Stuart Olson Construction.

Ninety North also received contracts for the design and construction of accommodation and maintenance facilities at Diavik's splitting and sorting plant.

In Yellowknife, Urbco owns 18 residential buildings, including 580 apartment and townhouse units, and two commercial sites: Wal-Mart and the Stanton Medical Plaza.

This year, Urbco plans to expand into Greenland and Yukon.

Urbco's revenue increased 56 per cent this year, up to almost $38 million from about $24 million last year.

Rental property revenues also increased 39 per cent from last year.

Wednesday was the first time Urbco held its AGM outside Calgary.