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Housing, real estate sectors bullish as a result of surge in mining activity.

While the housing market has been in a slump for some time now, the recent spate of mining activity bodes well for the housing industry.

City of Timmins director of community development Mark Jensen says, although the number of permits in the new home and renovation markets have actually dropped, the corresponding value of those permits has remained relactively steady.

Figures supplied by the City of Timmins planning department show the number of permits for new construction, addition and renovations of residential property year-to-date for December 2003 was 481, compared to 791 in the year before. However, the value between those two periods was over $9.6 million for 2003, versus $10.2 million in the year before.

The number of new home permits remained at 26 permits each year, although the value increased from $4.98 million in 2002 to $5.47 million last year. Additions and alterations varied from $5.2 million in 2002 to $4.2 million in 2003, although the number of permits dropped from 765 in 2002 to 455 last year.

Commercial construction, additions and alterations rose slightly in 2003 with 96 permits issued valued at $4.1 million, compared to the year before at 87 permits issued, worth $3.57 million. The value of new permits rose from $671,000 to $1.2 million, while the number of renovation permits rose by nine from 83 in 2002. Their value dropped slightly from $2.9 million to $2.8 million.

Dan Racicot, president of the Timmins Construction Association, says his members have reported to him a slight increase in the number of renovation projects throughout the city just in recent months.

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"Having talked to a few of our contractors, they were telling me they've been quite busy in the last few months and they've been most busy in renovations," he says. "There is a lot of upgrading as people either look at staying or are thinking of selling later on."

Real estate, in both residential and commercial markets, has been in a slump, says Timmins' real estate board president John Lawrence. There is just enough activity to keep the nearly 40 real estate agents in Timmins making a living, but that is it, he says.

"The market this past year has been really slow," says Lawrence. "We've had no good news for a while."

The multi-residential market has also "really taken a beating. We've been almost in a holding pattern for a number of years. But the prospects are looking better this year."

A strengthening mining sector, driven in part by an improved gold market and increased exploration for diamonds along the James Bay coast, is helping to improve the housing market.

"Even if De Beers doesn't set up an office here in Timmins, they're going to have a presence, so there should be some development as a result," says Lawrence.

"People spending money on renovations tells me that they're confident in what's happening," says Jensen, adding the $12-million Discover Abitibi geophysical study of the Timmins area is "helping to solidify the city's future".

"With all the geoscience going on, we're seeing a lot of exploration by various companies and a lot of claim staking," he says. "That means good things for local employers who are seeing an immediate customer increase ... a lot of the exploration that is happening is happening when gold and base metal prices are going up. There is a lot of synergy there."

Jensen also believes the lacklustre commercial activity is reflective of a trend toward home-based offices. The city has had complaints as a result of trucking companies or machine shops operating on residential-zoned property.

"It's something we have to be cognizant of," he says .... We have to be careful we're not taking away from the downtown and other commercial areas. We want to maintain a strong downtown and encourage commercial development in the community."

www.tca-on.ca

www.reco.on.ca/mce_timmins.htm

By ANDREW WAREING

Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:Timmins Report
Author:Wareing, Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:663
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