The number of serviced, single-family lots ready for home construction has dwindled to its lowest level in at least 17 years.
A survey by the Borger Group of Companies, done late last fall, found that only 4,423 lots were available compared with 5,888 for 2014, 6,698 for 2013 and 7,575 for 2012. For 2003, the company counted 9,247 lots.
Bill Borger, president of the earth-moving company with more than 350 employees, said it has been conducting the lot count now for more than 50 years. The Borger team counts every vacant, serviced lot in the city that has a sewer and water connection.
“It is 20 per cent lower than anything we have on record which we don’t have records pre-1997 now,” he said. “But it’s lower than anything we have on record. This is the lowest amount in at least 17 years – probably more.
“We do the lot count, and the reason it started, is to kind of get a gauge of how busy we’re going to be for staffing or equipment purchases. And it’s usually fairly accurate barring major fluctuations in oil and the world economy that can change everything.”
Borger said the lot count means there is less than a year’s worth of inventory of single-family lots available to build a new home.
Taking into account the surrounding areas outside Calgary, total serviced, single-family lots dropped to 7,769 from 9,603 in 2014, 10,750 in 2013 and 11,043 in 2012.
According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the number of single-detached starts in the Calgary census metropolitan area peaked in 2006 at 10,482. Last year, there were 6,494 starts and the agency is forecasting starts to decline to 6,400 this year and to 6,300 in 2015.
“We are aware of the Borger report and understand that it is a count, taken in November 2014, of vacant single family and semi-detached lots that have service connections and are ready for construction of the home to begin. We were not involved in the count and cannot confirm the numbers provided or how they relate to those provided in previous years. The City is actively working together with the development industry to report on the land supply based on the data collected in 2014. Progress on this work is going well and we expect to share this report in the coming weeks,” wrote Joel Armitage, project lead for Build Calgary, director of the office of land servicing and housing for the city, and president of the Calgary Housing Company, in a statement.
Guy Huntingford, chief executive of the Urban Development Institute, said the organization has been working with the City of Calgary on developing a monthly lot supply report. He said the definition of a serviced lot and what people believe to be serviced sometimes can get confusing.
“One of the reasons we really want a monthly report is that those oscillations that happen when you only do something once a year get taken out. They’re constantly being updated every month,” said Huntingford. “We’re almost there. We’re hoping to have in the next couple of weeks a meeting where we’re going to show the developers and builders – and the city’s going to actually be at this meeting – and say here’s what we’ve got, here’s what we found and here’s where we’re at right now.
“There’s a recognition though, that due to the fact we did have a very good in-migration for the last couple of years, there’s no question we’re absorbing at a fast pace and it’s not surprising that the lot counts are down. But we need to see what’s coming down the pipe as well to help fill it back up.”