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Building permits hit record high

Costly real estate in GTA driving sales in Orillia: officials
2018-01-16 Building Permits
A record number of building permits were issued in Orillia in 2017. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

Building permits are booming in Orillia, and Toronto can be thanked, in part, for the increase.

Skyrocketing costs in the Greater Toronto Area are driving folks north, according to local officials.

"It just means they have to commute to work," said Kelly Smith, Orillia's chief building official.

In 2017, the city issued 657 building permits — up from 620 in 2016.

"It's the highest number of permits at least in the 25 years I've been with the city," Smith said. "To be in the 600 range is unusual."

The value of the permits is a different story. In 2016, they were worth $167 million, while the 2017 figure was $83.5 million. That's because of four major projects for which permits were issued in 2016: Costco, Orchard Point condominiums, the recreation centre and upgrades to the wastewater treatment centre. Without those projects, the total value in 2016 would have been $76 million.

Orillia has seen a jump in residential building permits, too. In 2016, permits were issued for 160 new single-family dwellings or townhouses. In 2017, that number was 212.

"That's a huge jump," Smith said.

Mike Stahls, president of the Lakelands Association of Realtors, said the rising prices south of Orillia are leading home buyers and builders to look north.

"When they retire, they're cashing out on their house prices where they are and moving here," he said.

It's not only Toronto they're fleeing, though.

"Barrie's pretty high now, too," Stahls said. "A lot of people are getting priced out of the market there."

The Lakelands Association of Realtors, which covers Orillia and bordering townships, recorded a significant increase in 2017, over 2016, in the value of Orillia real estate. The average sale price for a single-family detached home in 2017 was $446,982, up from $377,914 in 2016.

The number of sales was down — 1,040 in 2016 and 941 in 2017.

It has been a "seller's market" in the past couple of years, but Stahls believes 2018 will be more balanced, making it easier for buyers.

"From what I can see, it's going to be an active market in the spring," he said.

He noted the technology of today allows people to work from home more often, which makes a move from the GTA to Orillia more attractive.

The appeal goes beyond technology, however, said Smith.

"We have ready-serviced lots. We have so many lots in West Ridge and they're accessible to Highway 11," she explained.

She expects 2018 will be another strong year for residential building permits, "but not as strong."

"We're expecting to see housing not quite hit that peak but definitely stay strong."

As for commercial building permits, "2018 is going to be just as good," she said, anticipating spinoff business in west Orillia as a result of Costco being up and running.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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