Property values inch up ahead of potential housing boom

Residential property values in Vanderhoof increased more than one per cent since July 2012. The rise may attributed to resource development.

Since July 2012

Residential property values in Vanderhoof increased more than one per cent since July 2012.

Over the past six months, the total amount of assessed property values in Vanderhoof increased from $482 million to $487 million, reflecting not only home sales, but new development, demolitions, home additions and renovations.

“It’s not simply a change based on market activity, but all the things that change value,” said Christopher Whyte, deputy assessor for B.C. Assessment, a crown corporation that produces independent property assessments for property owners in B.C each year.

The modest rise partly indicates what people are willing to pay on the market, but could also be attributed to resource development projects that are drawing more people to the region, increasing home sales and property values, explained Whyte.

Cases in point are Mackenzie and Kitimat, B.C., where resource development has caused property assessments to jump between five and 30 per cent.

“The oil, gas and mining sectors,” said Whyte, “seem to be throwing a lot of money into their industries right now. They need people, and people need to live somewhere.”

In the coming years, town officials in Vanderhoof are forecasting an influx of about 500 people, solely because of resource development projects, specifically the Mount Milligan and Blackwater mines, said Deputy Administrator Tom Clement.

Although the town can only speculate – and conservatively – that property values will increase over the long term, Whyte says resource development in the region, coupled with the forecasted influx of hundreds of people, would seem to result in higher property values, as seen in other towns located near major industrial projects.

For the district, accommodating the forecasted population surge with land, zoning and infrastructure is more important than increasing assessments, said Clement.

“That’s how we look at it: Rather than, what’s the assessed value going to be, we’re looking to see if we have the land to do it,” he said.

In preparation for what could be a great migration to Vanderhoof, the town has already demarcated areas for new sub-divisions, with room for more than 120 homes of various sizes and affordability, that are on the verge of moving forward.

Furthermore, at the behest of the town, engineers have ensured that sewer and water systems in Vanderhoof are capable of servicing new residential development.

“If there was a push, and all of a sudden we do need room for 100 new homes, for instance, it’s there,” said Clement.

“We’re confident we have the infrastructure in place to handle them.”

The wave of newcomers to northern B.C., many of whom will find work in the province’s mining and gas sectors, will continue for some time.

By reducing red tape, the provincial government has begun approving new mines and permitting existing ones to expand at a faster rate.

In 2011, the province’s mineral exploration, mining and related sectors employed more than 29,000 people, mainly in rural areas.

The average mining salary in B.C. is a respectable $108,000, according to government figures.

“Jobs continue to be our focus, and making sure that British Columbians have the skills needed to support our up-and-coming new mines is vitally important to our continued success,” Rich Coleman, minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas, said in a statement on Dec. 28, 2012.

Property values in Vanderhoof have rebounded since the outbreak of the global financial crisis and housing market crash in 2008, mainly due to the strong resource sector in northern B.C.

Today, values remain stable.

“As much as some people don’t want to hear that, I think that’s a good thing,” said Whyte.

Historically, residential and industrial assessments in Vanderhoof have increased consistently, though modestly, each year, said Clement.

“It doesn’t fluctuate a whole lot. We’re pretty steady that way,” he said.

However, slight gains, or inactive market activity, translates into stability for the property owner and the taxing jurisdiction, explained Whyte.

“No change is sometimes good change when you’re not getting massive roller coaster affects,” said Whyte.

Property assessments were mailed to residents across B.C. in the first week of January 2013.

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