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Building permits plummet

David Ryan
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/06) - Building permits in Yellowknife were down 23 per cent in 2006 compared to last year.

Both residential and non-residential permits have dropped off, said Bill Fandrick, building inspector manager with the city.

Between Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2005, 521 building permits were issued for non-residential and residential buildings. This year, just 399 permits were issued, he said.

These numbers come after Statistics Canada released data last week showing the value of permits issued over the same time period was down by 47 per cent across the NWT.

In 2005, the total value of permits issued was $66.7 million, compared to $35.3 million in 2006.

The lack of work in the North was one factor weighing on PCL Constructors Northern Inc.'s decision to pull its operations from the city, said company spokesperson Allan Shortt.

"The whole company is ceasing operations and closing down by March 1," he said, adding that the four employees will be relocated to one of PCL's Alberta-based subsidiaries.

The booming Alberta economy was the main reason for moving south, he said.

PCL Constructors has had an office in Yellowknife for more than 35 years and was doing work in the North as early as 1932, said Shortt.

The draw of skilled workers to the south makes it a challenge in the North, said Steve Waser, operations manager for Dowland Construction, which has an office in Yellowknife.

While the economy is hot in the south, the lower number of building permits may be a sign that infrastructure demands have caught up in the city, he said.

"Everyone is serviced and satisfied," he said.

The drop doesn't necessarily equate to a cooling in the economy, but there has been a slight pause, said Mayor Gord Van Tighem.

"It's like being first in a race, going up a long hill, and then coasting down to get your breath back," he said.

With more land around Yellowknife becoming available, more construction will soon take place, he predicted.

The opening of De Beers Canada's Snap Lake diamond mine is expected to bring more development with a new phase of workers coming to the city, he added.

Ken Pearman, president of the Yellowknife Real Estate Board and a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker, said home construction in Yellowknife can be cyclical in nature.

Acquiring building permits is all about timing and one particular month could make a big difference in data, he said.

"There is still confidence in the market, particularly in the residential," he added.