The value of construction approved by the City of Red Deer last year slipped to $243.4 million from the 2012 tally of $267.9 million.
But despite this nine per cent decline, the 2013 figure was still well ahead of the $169.7 million in building permits issued by the city in 2011, and the $118.9 million in work approved during 2010.
And the number of permits issued by the city last year reached 1,524, up from 1,494 in 2012.
Howard Thompson, manager of Red Deer’s Inspections and Licensing Department, said two consecutive years in the $250-million range indicates “there is a greater confidence in the local economy.”
The record year for building permits in Red Deer was set in 2007, when the total value of construction approved reached $421 million.
With the subsequent onset of the economic downturn, the tally fell to $258.4 million in 2008 and $140.9 million in 2009.
The value of residential projects approved by the city last year was virtually unchanged from 2012, at just over $115.6 million.
“Building permits were steady, and I think going on to 2014 we’re going to have similar or better,” said Kevin Wilkie, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association — Central Alberta Region.
Wilkie said his own company, True-Line Homes, is seeing increased enthusiasm at its show homes, and other home builders are noticing a similar trend.
“It just seems like people are more interested.”
Two months ago, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation was forecasting that Red Deer would finish 2013 with 715 housing starts — up from 568 in 2012 — and that in 2014 the figure would hit 715.
“I’d agree with that,” said Wilkie.
Not only is a strong local economy fueling demand for homes, new lots in subdivisions like Garden Heights, Clearmont and Timberstone are attracting buyers, he said.
Wilkie doesn’t anticipate an overheated market like the one prior to the recession, when builders were hampered by a shortage of tradespeople.
“I think it will be a good busy year. I don’t think it’s going to be anything like 2007, where it was taking over a year to build houses.”
In the case of commercial construction last year, the city issued permits for $35.5 million worth of work, down from $66.2 million in 2012.
The value of industrial projects approved dropped to $55.8 million from $74.8 million.
A news release issued by the city said permits for new commercial areas like Clearview Market Square, and the $53-million expansion of Red Deer’s wastewater treatment plant, inflated the 2012 totals in these categories.
In the case of public projects, the city approved $36.4 million in work last year, up from $11.2 million. Permits for three new schools in Red Deer contributed to the 2013 total in this category.
The Inspections and Licensing Department was busy in the final month of 2013, issuing permits for $16.3 million worth of work.
Residential projects accounted for $12.3 million of this, with commercial work adding $2.4 million and industrial approvals $1.5 million. By contrast, the combined figure for December 2012 was $11.2 million.
This was made up of $8.7 million in the residential category, $545,000 for commercial construction and $1.9 million for industrial projects.
Boosting last month’s numbers was a permit for $6.8 million issued to Seymour Pacific Developments for a 78-unit apartment building at 2450 22nd St., and another for $2.3-million to Scott Builders for the first phase of a hotel, restaurant, lounge and retail complex at 6852 66th St.
Among the other big projects approved last month was construction of a $775,000 industrial building at 509, 39015 Hwy 2A, and $400,000 in renovations to Riverside Kennels at 4640 61st St.