With multiple residential developments in the works, finding a home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is expected to get a little easier by the end of the 2013 construction season.
For at least one more year, however, rental and housing prices are expected to continue to soar, alarming longtime locals.
Brad Keats, a firefighter at 5 Wing Goose Bay, said he and his wife purchased a mini home on Windsor Drive in 1998. He referred to it as “one of the older places in town,” with houses from 25 to 35 years old.
“We did a bit of work to it. Nothing major, maybe $10,000 worth of work,” he said. The price of that home today has “gone up by over $200,000.”
Keats and his wife no longer live there, having moved twice since, but he noted the price as an easy indicator of an overall change in the town.
He did not want the price of any of his residences published, but Keats did make it clear the prices have increased dramatically within the last five years. He said his current home, purchased in August 2009, could likely be sold today for twice the price he paid — though he is not looking to sell.
The change has worked out for his family, as they lucked into the right home at the right price when they made their latest move. Yet for others, including those just entering the market, Keats said skyrocketing prices are cutting off housing options.
“Good friends of ours, they’ve got a mini home over on Adam’s Loop. If they sell, they’ll get $250,000. But land right now is $80,000-$85,000, above, just for land. Then you’ve got to get someone to build it. So you’re looking at easily $100,000-$150,000, even more than that I’m told now, to get someone to build it,” he said. “So all you got right now is land and a guy for $250,000. You’ve got nothing really.”
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He said today people would be lucky to start off in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in “an average-sized home” with a mortgage of less than $400,000.
Today in the town, existing homes are being sold same-day, through Facebook postings or a lawn sign, and apartments are being created in basements and garages, to serve both renters and those who were planning to buy, but are feeling the crunch.
“I pity people coming here now. It’s just nuts,” Keats said, framing the situation as simply as he could.
A longtime resident of the community, Mel Pilgrim said the cost of carpentry, housing materials and contractors is all part of the jump.
“If you were going to go out and buy a house today, the price has doubled,” she said.
As for why prices have shot up, Pilgrim guessed it would be the expectation of things to come, including the Lower Churchill development and new arrivals looking to get the jump on industrial projects.
“There is no big thing going on, except people are anticipating a lot,” Pilgrim said.
While the anticipation is seen as a positive, she said the prices are a problem for anyone looking to downsize. “Really, unless you’re moving to another area — that’s the only way you’re making money on housing right now,” she said.
Compared to Lab West, Fort McMurray
In a letter to the editor of The Labradorian newspaper, in April 2012, the president of the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, Sterling Peyton, stated the town “is currently experiencing a boom that can only be compared to areas such as Fort McMurray and now Labrador West.”
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Leo Abbass said relief is coming.
“Right now things are tough,” Abbass admitted, speaking with The Telegram Monday.
He recalled attending an announcement, made by Minister of Labrador Affairs Nick McGrath, of an expansion of programming at the local College of the North Atlantic. McGrath was highlighting the addition of new teachers and support workers.
“I’m sitting there and I’m listening to the announcement and I’m thinking, wow, you’re talking about 30 people that are coming into the area and my thoughts are where do they go? Right now, you put 30 people in our community, I don’t think we’ve got 30 beds to put them in.”
“Now, I think we’ve taken measures to remedy that.”
Those measures mainly come down to allowing construction of new homes.
One area under development includes 57 lots which will offer about 200 apartment units in total, Abbass said. Some of those units are expected to be available this fall. There are new homes in a second area known as Johnny Hill.
The so-called West of Heffler development is expected to offer in excess of 200 residential lots for single-family homes, Abbass said. In addition, the 250-acre Goose Bay centre will include varying types of residential units with commercial developments.
“But again, that’s not going to help us tomorrow, next week or September,” he said.
The mayor said he continues to seek an arrangement with the Department of Defence for access to available housing at 5 Wing Goose Bay, to “get over the hump” between now and next construction season.