Housing: Housing starts have fallen in Rimouski for 10 years

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Housing: drop in housing starts in Rimouski for 10 years

Housing starts in the Rimouski sector have been declining for the past ten years.

Since 2012, the number of new housing starts on the territory of the City of Rimouski has fallen by 72% according to data compiled by the Association des la construction et de l'habitation du Québec (APCHQ).

After peaks of 496 housing starts in 2010 and another 745 in 2011, the neighborhoods of Rimouski experienced a decline significant activity since.

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In parallel with this slowdown in housing starts, the City of Rimouski also granted far fewer building permits in 2021 than it did in 2012.

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Result: The number of new homes is almost four times lower in 2021 than it was in 2012.

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The City of Rimouski does not count the number of permit applications that are not compliant as soon as they are submitted. It is rare that we refuse permit applications, since we work with applicants to correct plans so that they comply with the regulations in order to be able to issue permits, indicates a spokesperson for the City by email.

As an example, 25 requests were closed in 2021 without a permit being issued.

In five years, the population of Rimouski went from 46,860 inhabitants to 48,935 inhabitants, an increase of just over 4%.

And the housing vacancy rate hit a historic low of 0.2% from almost 5% in 2016.

Nearly 90 new homes were built in Rimouski in 2021.

In recent years, Rimouski has been rather at odds with the rest of Quebec because construction has accelerated in several places, notes the director of the economic service of the APCHQ, Paul Cardinal.

If 2021 was a record year for housing starts in Quebec, particularly on the rental market side, Rimouski did not see any new housing being built last year.

It's a bit difficult to explain why there hasn't been more rental construction. The vacancy rate is low, normally that stimulates construction, but construction costs being what they are today, it is extremely expensive in terms of material costs, Mr. Cardinal explains as an explanation.

It's on everyone's lips: construction costs would be one of the obstacles to real estate development in Rimouski. In one year, they would have increased by about 35% according to the APCHQ.

To be profitable, new homes must be rented for around $1,500 per month, illustrates Jérôme Savard, owner of more than 70 homes in Rimouski and who has been working in the city's residential environment for fifteen years. There are only pre-retirees who have a good woolen stocking who can afford these accommodations.

Mr. Savard claims to have rarely seen large rental projects in the city center since he has been active in the Rimouski real estate market.

“Rimouski has always operated like a presto [pressure cooker]: demand has always outstripped supply for houses and apartments. »

— Jérôme Savard, owner of housing in Rimouski

If we have housing that is at that price, only a tiny part of the population can afford it. allow, entrepreneurs are not interested in building high-rise apartments, adds the one who has also been a real estate broker for ten years.

According to Jérôme Savard, entrepreneurs face another obstacle: the cost of available land. As an example, he claims that the land bordering Alcide-C.-Horth Street was selling for $11 per square foot, an atrocious situation according to the housing owner.

The entrepreneurs who build on these lands begin their projects from the outset with a hefty bill. Other land would be available, but is still zoned agricultural and cannot be developed by developers.

Several contractors vehemently denounce this situation, but did not want to grant an interview for fear of undermining the business relationship with the City.

To respond to the demand for housing, both Jérôme Savard and the APCHQ are campaigning for tax accommodations from municipalities and the provincial government.

Paul Cardinal believes that a QST refund for projects with a market value of $225,000 per door would be an excellent incentive for developers.

For his part, Jérôme Savard believes that the Quebec government should directly subsidize part of the cost of rents.

For access to housing for refugees, people with lower incomes […], governments must get involved in subsidizing this housing, which would cost society much less than the government itself offers. construction projects, he says.

He also hopes that Rimouski will take inspiration from Matane and offer developers a tax break. In Matane, where an 89-unit project was announced last June, the City is offering 100% furlough for the next three years and 50% for the following two years.

A similar program was also adopted in 2020 by the City of Gaspé.

Mr. Savard suggests that the value of this leave could then be applied to make up the down payment and thus encourage young entrepreneurs to start building.

The City of Rimouski says that this avenue is being explored. It's an incentive, it's one more tool which, I think, is part of an overall plan for the City of Rimouski, said Mayor Guy Caron in an interview on June 15 on the show < em>Same frequency.

Listen to Guy Caron's full interview on the housing crisis on the show Same frequency.

The mayor of Rimouski, Guy Caron (archives)

Mr. Caron, however, refuses to believe that there is a lack of units or a lack of projects, pointing out that approximately 2,000 units have been announced in the past year and a half in Rimouski.

He cites as examples the project of the Fari Group on rue des Flandres, that of the Réseau Sélection on the site of the Grande Place or that of the Dionne sisters and the Tanguay Group on the site of the Sainte-Agnès church.

“We have units that have been announced as projects, but construction is delayed for various reasons. »

—Guy Caron, Mayor of Rimouski

Guy Caron also recalls that Rimouski experienced another housing crisis in the early 2000s.

This was largely resolved by the development of Havre de l'Estuaire and Prés du Saint -Rosaire, but it still took six to seven years to get back to the steady-state rate, he notes. As much as the development of Prés du Saint-Rosaire got us out of a housing crisis, so many mistakes have been made and we want to avoid repeating them.

For the mayor, Avoiding these mistakes requires prioritizing the densification of Rimouski's urban fabric.

It will be crucial to have densification, especially downtown, insists Guy Caron. We don't want to develop through urban sprawl, we want to be able to really concentrate development in a way that will make it easier to develop local businesses and facilitate services such as public transit.

A point of view shared by Paul Cardinal of the APCHQ. It is certain that from year to year, land is increasingly rare. Now, municipalities want to densify. We are less and less fond of authorizing the construction of single-family homes, we want to move more towards collective housing.

However, this densification comes with its own set of challenges, including that of social acceptability.

“All the citizens say they are for densification, but naturally, the phenomenon of "not in my backyard" is present everywhere. »

— Paul Cardinal, Director of the Economic Department of the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec (APCHQ)

The City of Rimouski also wants to tackle this problem when developing its housing policy and revising its urban plan.

When we have projects where we try to go for semi-detached or multi-unit rather than single-family, there is always the possibility of a referendum and of having citizens who oppose, illustrates the mayor.

In the meantime, the APCHQ estimates that there are 400 housing units for owner occupiers in Rimouski short of reaching the equilibrium rate, in addition to 200 rental units, not to mention the need for social housing.

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