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Development dips, gaming clicks for city coffers

A record year for development appears unlikely to be matched in 2011.

According to a new finance department report, the city issued 335 building permits in the first quarter, a slight drop from 348 in the same period in 2010. Building permit revenues are also down, as are development applications and housing starts.

But the value of the construction that is occurring, such as the high-end condominiums of River Green—is up. In the first three months of 2011, building permits carried a construction value of $97.6 million, compared to $88.5 million last year.

In 2010 Richmond issued a record $813 million in building permits, crushing the previous record set in 2006 of $680 million. Observers pointed to the Canada Line, Olympics and a redrafting of the City Centre area plan as keys to the city’s economic rebound.

But in her report presented at city hall Monday, the finance department’s Katherine Lecy noted 2011 is “unlikely to match last year’s record” in development.

Housing starts in the first quarter have fallen to just 178, compared to last year’s 371. So far this year, just 54 units have been added to Richmond’s housing stock, compared to 219 from last year—a 75 per cent drop.

Gaming revenue, however, hasn’t suffered any setbacks. Year-to-date revenues for the city total $3.6 million—14.2 per cent higher than the previous year.

Staff suggest revenues at the casino have been growing since the opening of the Canada Line and the recent redevelopment of the resort.

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