London City Hall Scrambling To Keep Up With Soaring Demand For Construction Permits And Inspections

  • 08/2/17
  • |          London

As problems go, it’s a good one to have.

With the year only half over, London has written more than 40 per cent more building permits for single-family homes and townhouses than it did to the same point in 2016, with city hall’s building department struggling to keep up with more than 100 applications now in the hopper.

Demand is so strong, temporary staff have been hired to deal with the backlogged applications to build.

“We’ve had challenges keeping up with both building permit issuance and inspections,” said Peter Kokkoros, the city’s deputy chief building official.

“But who doesn’t want more development?” he asked. “Growth is good.”

For the first six months of 2017, permits were issued for more than 1,012 single-family homes and townhouse units worth a combined $337 million.

In the same period in 2016 — a solid year for construction — 612  permits were issued for the same types of housing, with a total value of $209 million.

With its strong home-building market showing no signs of cooling off, the city also is working with the London Home Builders’ Association to speed up the permit-approval process.

Starting last month, home builders were asked to have all drawings and documents available on site when city inspectors arrive.

“We have made low-cost changes to maximize efficiency,” said Kokkoros.

Housing — new and resale — has been the poster child for London’s economic comeback, its red-hot market underlined by a record year for existing home sales in 2016 amid surging prices, bidding wars and homes selling almost as quickly as they were listed.

But while London is a seller’s market for existing homes, and on a record pace for new home starts, the fallout of a buoyant economy and spillover from the red-hot Toronto real-estate market, it’s not faring as well in the more volatile apartment construction sector.

London has issued only three building permits worth $51 million, compared to nine permits worth $297 million in the first six months of last year.

Kokkoros said that situation could turn around before year’s end because there are four large apartment projects awaiting building permits that likely will be issued by the end of the year

The big hole this year is in the institutional sector, which includes hospitals and schools and the like.

Last year, there was $61 million in new construction and another $50 million in additions, mainly through work at Western University and Fanshawe College and new elementary schools.

This year, there’s been no new institutional building and only $1.2 million in additions, though an application for a $43-million seniors home in northwest London is being processed.

Commercial building permits are up this year, while industrial permits are holding steady.

Overall, the total value of city building permits year-to-date is $530 million, down from $668 million during the same period last year.

Although the total value of the permits is trailing, Kokkoros noted that 2016 was a record-breaking year with $1.4 billion in building permits issued.

He said 2017 may not be another record-breaking year, but the construction sector will be busy, especially in the housing sector.

“I was expecting a bit of a slowdown around September, but now I expect we will be busy into November.”

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