Photo by calderilla

St. John’s is exploding. Development-wise, that is. Ward 2 Councillor Frank Galgay says there are 51 development projects on the books for 2011 – a value of over half-a-billion development dollars. “And climbing!” he adds.

Projects include condos, hotels, subdivisions, and a new Canadian Forces Base. “This is the greatest movement of development in the history of the city,” says Galgay. It all means more tax dollars, more people, and more business. According to some housing market aficionados, it’ll also mean emptier pockets for downtown renters.

“The vacancy is almost nil for residential rentals,” says realtor Harry Stone. “Rents have gone up quite a bit, in some cases they’ve doubled. We’re in a bit of a lull right now but I think it’s temporary. Affordable housing is going to become a real problem.”

“One of the additional problems we have now,” Stone adds, “is the federal government introducing new regulations to cool off the markets in places like Toronto and Calgary. The effect here is that less people qualify for mortgages.”


  1. Sean · March 12, 2012

    This story is like a summary of a story that I’d like to read. Who in what level of government has primary responsibility for affordable housing? I know the City has affordable housing stock that they manage, are they planning on building any more? Ask a local member of parliament (Coady or Harris) whether there is federal funding available to build more. Ask the provincial government or Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. What’s the plan for affordable housing in St. John’s? Is there one? If there isn’t, why not? The only thing I get from this story is that the market is not producing affordable housing by itself, so now what?

    Regarding development, my question is, there have been waaay more developments approved by City Council over the past 2 or 3 years than have actually gone ahead. Why is that? Are we likely to actually see 51 developments come to fruition, or is that just what’s been approved, while only a fraction will actually happen?

  2. Sarah Smellie · March 12, 2012

    Here’s a bit about affordable housing from Andrew Harvey:

    Those 51 projects are “on the books,” which means that they’re approved, pending approval, pending Land Use Assessment, pending formal application, and so on. Some may not go through.

    In the downtown area, they are mostly condo, hotel and office space developments, so no affordable housing. The subdivsion in Pleasantville will have affordable housing — I’d have to double-check how many units, though.

    I was interested in what would happen to the rental market. The city’s having a bit of a vacancy crisis and rents have gone through the roof. I was wondering if all the condos would ease the vacancy crunch, and hence the price increases. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Other than building more affordable housing, the city could also ask the provincial government to re-write the Residential Tenancies Act and put in a clause that limits the amount by which a landlord can increase the rent; as the document stands right now, there’s nothing about controlled rent increases. Galgay didn’t seem to think that would happen, though he made a statement on behalf of himself saying that he encouraged members of the house of assembly to look into any extraordinary increases in an individual’s rent.

    All in all, though, I agree with you: It’s an issue that warrants a more in-depth treatment.

    Oh, and re: developments approved and not going ahead, it is interesting. Like, what’s happening with that hotel at Water and Prescott? I asked Ken O’Brien, manager of city planning, about that a while ago. He says it’s all up to the developers once the city approves the project. Some of the stalled projects, he said, may have occurred because the developing company just couldn’t afford it after the North American economy went in the dumper. I’m not sure if there’s a limit to how long a project can sit dormant or not — that’d probably be something to address in an up-to-date Municipal Plan which addresses the present boom town situation. Unfortunately, that development has stalled, too.

  3. Sean · March 12, 2012


    Thanks so much for your prompt and informative reply. I rely on the Scope as a top news source for municipal development issues, so it really helps to get all the details.


  4. Anonymouse · March 12, 2012

    Any word on the rumours of a St. John’s housing bubble?

  5. Gerry Tuff · March 12, 2012

    None needed. C follows B which follows A. Not if but when.

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