When Robert Duffy and his partners decided to develop the Lefurgey Subdivision Extension, there were a lot of naysayers.
People told them they would be sitting on the Summerside residential lots, which are zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, for a decade or more before they would sell.
That was in 2013-14. A lot has changed since then.
Almost all of the lots have since sold and MacDuff Property Developers, in which Duffy is a partner, is planning two more subdivisions in the city.
They are not alone.
“Summerside’s up and coming,” said Duffy.
There are currently five significant residential developments on the books at city hall and more are in the planning stages.
Those projects include Fairview Heights, off MacKenzie Drive; Dory View by Water’s Edge, the former Heritage Trailer Park off Water Street East; Starlite Estates, also off Water Street East; the Hung Le Properties development off MacEwen Road and the McQuaid project off Spruce Drive.
- Fairview Heights: 50 lots, most zoned R2 but some R4 zoning as well, though the developer has not expressed interest in developing apartment buildings here at this time.
- Dory View by Water’s Edge: 27 small single-family homes on their own lots, owners will build and rent properties
- Starlite Estates: 40 lots, most zoned R2 for single family and semi-detached homes
- Le Properties Ltd.: Six R3 lots for town or row houses and two R4 lots for apartment buildings
- McQuaid project, Spruce Drive: Eight lots meant for semi-detached homes and two lots for six-unit rowhouses.
According to a rough estimate provided to the Journal Pioneer by city staff, these five developments represent about 120 new building lots or about 230 new single-family and semi-detached units.
Some of these projects also include more high-density apartment buildings as well, but as some of those designs are not final it was more difficult to get an estimate on how many individual living units they represent.
These numbers also don’t take into account projects that have not yet reached the stage of needing some kind of council approval, such as Arsenault Bros. Construction’s previously announced 76-unit downtown development.
The provincial government has also committed to building a number of public housing units in the city in 2019 as well, including a new 32-unit seniors housing complex off Frank Mellish Street.
So, though the exact number of units is unclear at this point, all signs are pointing to a sizable increase in residential development in Summerside in 2019.
“It certainly appears at this point it’s going to be a banner year for construction in the city,” said Mayor Basil Stewart.
“We’re looking forward to a great year.”
Allan Manley, executive officer for the Canadian Home Builders Association, P.E.I., said he’s not surprised that Summerside is suddenly seeing a resurgence in residential development.
“We’ve been looking at growth all over the Island,” said Manley. “We knew that it was going to be coming to Summerside because Charlottetown and Stratford had become so saturated and Cornwall was building up as well. So seeing that overflow to the other metropolitan areas wasn’t a surprise to anyone.”
Immigration, baby boomers looking downsize and Canadians fleeing sky-high housing prices in other provinces are all contributing to the boom, said Manley.
Immigrants especially are starting to feel more comfortable on P.E.I., he added, so you see them starting to branch out from their initial comfort zone in the capital.
“At this point, due to market prices and more comfort with the province as a whole, you’re seeing growth in places like Summerside much more than you had in the past year or two,” he said.
When Darcy Gallant and his family started considering building a new home in Summerside they found only three empty lots that suited their needs. That was in 2016. They were living on Hallie Drive in LeFurgey Subdivision.
When the family found out their neighbourhood was being expanded, they started researching buying one of the new lots and building a home. They also looked at other options in the city and found only two other empty plots they’d consider buying.
The pickings were pretty slim, said Gallant.
They opted to go with their original thought and bought and built in the LeFurgey Subdivision Extension.
Gallant, a real estate agent with Harbourside RE/MAX, said the local market has changed significantly in the three years since he built his home. At that time, building a house in Summerside was not necessarily attractive for people because they could buy at very reasonable prices. But housing prices have risen to the point where, depending on the type of property you’re looking for, there may not be much of a price difference between buying and building a $350,000 to $450,000 home.
“(Demand for lots) is going way up,” said Gallant.
“There’s still some available, you can definitely find one – It’s just they are more sparse,” he said, of the city’s current inventory.
Duffy said his company is looking to respond to that market demand. Their two new developments, Fairview Heights and Starlite Estates will be a mix of single family and duplexes.
“What’s going on in Charlottetown – it’s hit a boiling point,” said Duffy.
“They’re at a point where they can’t get the developments done (fast enough) to satisfy the people coming in through immigration and moving in from the country. So I just want to be a little proactive on the development side … and be ahead of what’s going on in Charlottetown.”
Duplexes, in particular, are in demand, he added, as a lot of buyers want to live in one side and use the other as an income property. Or they simply don’t want the burden of having to maintain a large single-family property.
To date, only the Fairview Heights development has received its full approvals from council. The other four major developments are at various stages in the process.
Also, just because they get their approvals is not guarantee the developers will immediately move ahead with construction. However, with the provincial vacancy rate at just 0.3 per cent at the end of 2018, so chances are most will be putting shovels in the ground sooner rather than later.