Saskatoon realtor calls city's housing market 'soft'

CBC News, July 11, 2016 - Saskatoon realtor Norm Fisher offered a more deflated view.

"We are seeing a general softening," Fisher told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Fisher is with Royal LePage Vidorra.

He said the downturn in the resource economy has slowed the demand a little bit in Saskatoon, and at the same time a lot of homes and new condos are available on the market.

Fisher said that the best deals can be found in the condo market.

"There is lots of selection and there is few people buying, so as a buyer you are definitely going to be able to make a better deal there," he added.

According to Fisher, the prices for condos are down about 10 per cent in the city. He said a condo that may have sold for $200,000 last year is now listed at $175,000 or less.

Good time for first time?

The realtor's advice for first time home buyers is mixed right now.

Fisher said it is important to take a look at your near future and understand whether your life situation might change within the next five years. If so, renting might be the best option. After all, landlords are now offering some big incentives to fill vacant rental properties.

However, for more stable people, looking to get into a first home, Fisher suggests they look to the city's newer neighbourhoods.

"You are going to see a good selection of stuff this spring for $350,000 so if you can do a little work on that yourself like maybe some landscaping, you should do fine on that."

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Residential construction continues to trail pace set in 2015: CMHC

Star phoenix, July 11, 2016 - The rippling effects of weak commodity prices continue to exert downward pressure on Saskatoon’s residential construction industry and home builders are responding, according to the national housing agency.

“We have been seeing some weakness in the economy, so (builders) have been scaling back and trying to unload some of their inventory,” said Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) senior market analyst Goodson Mwale.

Saskatoon home builders began work on 912 new units in the first six months of the year, down 21.6 per cent from the 1,164 projects started during the same period last year, the CMHC reported Monday.

Flatlining migration and negative job growth mean the CMHC expects builders to start between 1,690 and 2,010 new units this year, Mwale said. By comparison, there were 2,293 housing starts recorded in the city last year and 3,531 in 2014.

While the number of single-detached homes under construction in the first half of the year fell 3.8 per cent compared to 2015, the pace of multi-unit building slid 35.0 per cent, to 433 starts from the 666 recorded in the first half of last year.

Mwale said the decline in apartment and condominium construction is the result of inflated inventories. With demand for existing units softening, builders have curtailed work on new projects and are using incentives to sell existing ones, he said.

“We’re seeing the new home market beginning to reflect some of that weakness we’ve seen in the resale market, and we know the resale market tends to lead the new home market by several months,” he said.

The slowing pace of residential construction in Saskatoon appears to be reflected in the latest labour force survey. The number of construction jobs in the province fell 13.5 per cent over the last year, to 52,500 from 60,700, Statistics Canada reported last week.

The decline in new housing starts has created challenges for builders, contractors, tradespeople and others working in the industry, as well as forced businesses to be more competitive, according to the sales manager at Montana Homes.

However, overbuilding in 2014 and early 2015 led to inflated inventory levels — especially among apartments and condominiums — meaning a correction to a “more normal” pace of construction is necessary, Kal Hourd said.

“I think we went through some very good times, and some times where we got a little over-optimistic. Then the market couldn’t handle what we built, and now we’ve got to deal with it.”

Chris Guérette, CEO of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, said that while the multi-unit segment is experiencing a correction, the broader residential construction industry has returned to “average” growth.

“It’s not like we’re seeing what’s happening in the multi-units happening all over the place,” Guérette said, noting that comparisons to recent years are complicated by the fact that 2013 and 2014 experienced “spikes” in the pace of construction.

“Our members are telling us that the hard part is behind them, and so they’re pretty much on par for the rest of the year and it will pretty much remain the way it is (now),” she added.

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June employment numbers in Saskatchewan not a rosy picture

Starphoenix, July 8, 2016- Employment numbers for June in Saskatchewan are up slightly from May, but down 6,900 jobs compared with the same period last year, according to Statistics Canada’s labour force report released Friday.

“This is the fifth month in a row we’ve had declines from a year ago. So we’re certainly in slump,” said Doug Elliott, publisher of Sask Trends Monitor, a monthly statistical newsletter.

Employment numbers are down roughly 1.2 per cent in Saskatchewan from June 2015. Last month, there were 582,200 people employed in the province, compared to 589,100 during the same period last year.

The hardest-hit sectors were construction, which was down 13.5 per cent, education services (down 9.2 per cent) and transportation (down eight per cent). However, there were increases from last year; professional and technical services increased 10.8 per cent, information, culture, recreation (up nine per cent) and agriculture (up 6.9 per cent).

June’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.1 per cent, up 0.1 percentage points from 6.0 per cent in May and up 1.3 percentage points from 4.8 per cent in June 2015. Last month, there were 34,000 people unemployed in the province, compared with last year when there was 25,800 people unemployed. Saskatchewan does, however, have the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country for the month.

“One thing I would say with regard to numbers we’ve seen for the last two months, I think we’re seeing stability in the labour market,” said Jeremy Harrison, minister of immigration, jobs, skills and training.

Harrison acknowledged that the province has seen challenging times throughout the last year in the energy and natural resource sector with the low price of oil. “Year-over-year employment is down about 6,900, I believe. But over the course of the year we’ve seen our neighbour to the west, for instance, lose 70,000 jobs,” Harrison said.

He noted that June employment numbers were up about one per cent from May when 577,800 people were working in the province.

While Elliott agreed that we are seeing increases in job numbers from month to month, but over the long term it’s not certain if that will translate into a return to the employment numbers that Saskatchewan was seeing last year. “You can get little ups and downs from month to month, but we’re still tracking way below last year’s levels,” Elliott said.

“There was actually an increase from April to May as well so maybe we’re finished this downward trend and we’re starting on an upward trend,” Elliott added.

Even with the monthly uptick in jobs, Elliott said there is still a way to go before the province is back to where it was with employment numbers this time last year.

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Ottawa, province pledge millions to boost social housing in Saskatchewan

CBC News, July 7, 2016 - A new agreement between Ottawa and the government of Saskatchewan will shore up funding for affordable and low-income housing in communities across the province.

On Thursday federal MP Ralph Goodale joined Minister of Social Services Donna Harpauer to announce a multi-million-dollar investment for housing projects in Saskatchewan.

Money will be spent on affordable housing for seniors, building and renovating emergency shelters and transitional housing as well as upgrading existing social housing to improve energy and water efficiency.

The funding, shared between the two levels of government, will be spent over the next two years and has been promised for a variety of housing needs.

"When I go door to door the quality and availability of housing is always the number one issue," Goodale said Thursday. "We're doing more than just putting a roof over their heads, we're helping to build a foundation for broader social and economic success for those families."

Harpauer said funding will help the province move forward on a number of initiatives aimed at eliminating homelessness and poverty.

"Right now we're focusing on affordability and having services for those most vulnerable," Harpauer said. "Housing is going to be a key response to our disabilities strategy, the mental health and addictions action plan and the poverty reduction strategy."

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