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Northern housing: a tale of two towns
Lauren McKeon and Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 9, 2009
But it is the pretence Durand, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation analyst, used to compare the two jurisdictions at the 10th annual Yellowknife housing forum, held recently in the territory's capital city.
Here's what she found out: "rent is a bit cheaper in Hay River compared to Inuvik (and) the mortgage payment is lower in Hay River compared to Inuvik," she said.
However, on average, it's easier to find an apartment in Inuvik, which had a vacancy rate of 5.8 per cent in 2008, than Hay River, which had a vacancy rate of 2.1 per cent. The national vacancy rate is 2.3 per cent for 2008.
"By renting a two bedroom apartment in Hay River you can save up to $200 and by paying a mortgage there you can save up to $100 (compared to Inuvik)," Durand added.
However, the real question might be whether anyone is planning on moving to either town, not how much they'll pay once they get there.
As Richard Goatcher, the CMHC presenter for Yellowknife put it, "when you look at migrations statistics for the NWT, you can see that there's very little population growth going on right now."
More than 750 people left the territory in 2008, compared to 250 in 2007, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics.
So is there less housing activity going on in the two Northern towns?
"The market is very slow right now. I don't know what it's like in the rest of the territories, but I know it's slow here," said Derek Lindsay, mayor of Inuvik.
Lindsay said he's only heard of one housing start this year, but he expects that will change once the weather allows for building to pick up.
There is some assured activity, he added. For starters, Inuvik is putting up a new duplex, funded by the CMHC, he said.
"It's new, environmentally friendly - financially probably the best built unit. It's economical the whole nine yards," said Lindsay.
For now, he added, he won't put too much stock in the statistics supplied by the CMHC - numbers he expects will change drastically, anyway, if the Mackenzie Gas Project gets the green light.
Even so, "When you look at the economic downturn I don't think housing starts will be great across Canada, period," he said.
Hay River mayor Marc Miltenberger has a similar wait-and-see attitude in the stagnant market.
"Am I comfortable with where we are right now? Yes, I am comfortable, but I also realize there are going to be adjustments," he said.
Miltenberger said "there has been some indication looking at the real estate listing the movement is not there as there was six months ago. "There are plenty of factors to consider, not all easily forecasted, he said.
"We're just starting to see the effects now. I think we're going to have an interesting 12 months - or 24 months," he said.