It’s everywhere! You can hardly open a newspaper without encountering good news about Saskatoon’s growing economy. Some are even starting to use the boom word. Perhaps what’s most striking is that I’m hearing this news on a daily basis from people who reside outside of the province, would-be investors who are obviously catching wind of all of the good things happening in Saskatchewan, and here in Saskatoon.
The latest bit of good news for Saskatoon is the recently released Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey which tells us that there were 9,800 more people working in Saskatoon at the end of 2006, as compared to the same time in 2005. Across the province of Saskatchewan, we see an increase in the workforce of 22,800 people.
So, where are the people coming from to fill these positions? Perhaps we’re finally getting our lazy people off of the couch and into the workforce, but probably not. These people are coming to Saskatoon from all regions of Canada. Saskatoon is on the grow and an abundance of jobs in construction, agriculture, science, trade and services, and the mining, oil and gas industries is bringing people back home to this province. Talk to any REALTOR® and they’ll tell you what I’m telling you; they have never been dealing with more out of province prospects than they are right now.
Managing this opportunity for growth will be just one of the bigger challenges that we face in Saskatchewan over the coming years. How do we continue to create opportunities which encourage interest in our province? Dwight Percy writes an excellent column titled, “It’s a Make or Break Year for Saskatchewan” which is certainly worth a read.
What about housing? Today, the MLS® system is showing only 258 active listings of houses and condos across all areas of Saskatoon and all price ranges. Based solely on my recent effort to arrange showings of “active listings” I’m going to guess that 30-40% of these properties are under contract, and technically, no longer available.
Part of the challenge that we face in capitalizing on this interest is having adequate housing to accommodate people. The city of Saskatoon needs to take a serious look at its land development policy and find a way to make more building lots available, and they need to do it fast.
Last week, I received a call from Alan Thomarat, executive director of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders Association. Alan asked me to join him and Harry Janzen, executive director of the Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® at City Council this Monday evening to speak to the council about the potential problems which could arise from our current situation. I’ve agreed to do so.
I don’t know much about land development and I’m not an expert in municipal growth management but I do have a pretty good handle on basic mathematics, the Saskatoon real estate market and the principle of supply and demand. It’s quite simple really; if we have more families moving to Saskatoon we need more homes to put them in. If we don’t meet that growing need, we can count on house prices to rise faster than incomes leaving many of our younger families and less affluent citizens out in the cold and that doesn’t sound like good news to me.
Royal LePage Vidorra