A decade ago it was a question that agitated a lot of people in Squamish: Are we going to become a mere suburb of Vancouver, a place where a majority of people came to spend the night.
The data on construction hints at an answer. Despite a welcome burse of entrepreneurship, Squamish has indeed become a bedroom community of people working in the city, if the DOS data is any indication.
District of Squamish issued slightly over 400 building permits last year, but the real estate boom was heavily skewed towards residential construction.
(Click here to access the complete list of projects being planned in Squamish)
DOS issued 409 building permits for residential units in 2017 but only 24 for ICI, or Industrial, Commercial or Intuitional units. The number of residential units the district has approved have shown a steady rise.
Five years ago, district issued only 107 residential units. That number went up to 120 new residential units in 2014, then 349 residential units in 2015, and 359 new residential units in 2016.
If the residential unit construction has boomed, the building permits issues for commercial, industrial, and institutional have shown a steady decline.
In 2013, district approved 255 ICI (Industrial, Commercial or Institutional) units, but that number has only shown a drift downwards. In 2014, the district gave building permits for 57 ICI units, then 49 in 2015, 28 in 2016, and 24 units last year.
Building permits, the planners believe, is the best way to measure construction related activity in town for it indicates new units to be created in that particular year.
In terms of how many projects are in the pipeline, it’s difficult to quantify because even if you have a residential project that is zoned and ready to go, it doesn’t mean it’s coming to the market, says Gary Buxton, the general manager for community planning and infrastructure.
“We have all the units in the Oceanfront and then we have the Waterfront landing project that are in the ‘pipeline’ but they won’t be coming to market in one year. That is five or seven year work for the company. Rather than look at the units in the ‘pipeline’, a better indicator of construction is the building permits,” he told the Reporter in an interview in 2017.
If the ‘pipeline’ is broadened to include units that are in the different stages of development, then the number of units in the pipeline would be close to 4,867.
Those include such projects such as waterfront and Oceanfront that alone bring over 2,000 units to the market. Similarly, the Scott Crescent and University Heights are other major residential projects being planned in town.
It is important to note that it would be highly unlikely that all of the developments that are proposed and under review will succeed or will eventually be built, said Jonas Velaniskis, Director of Community Planning
“Once development permits are approved and land is rezoned, the pace of actually building that project then gets set by the developer, and is weighted by a wide variety of market factors that help determine when and how quickly they will build,” he said.
Velaniskis said the district doesn’t have accurate number for commercial space as yet. “Those are hard to capture in terms of the number of units; normally this is measured by a minimum amount of space that developments must provide. The space could then be devised into a variety of configurations depending on the need,” he said.