I have been producing some graphs starting in early 2009 showing the trend of permits in the City of Vancouver (here and here). Here is an update to December, 2010.
Residential dwelling permits graphed since 2007:
Permits parsed for 1-2 dwelling units only (i.e. SFHs):Multi-unit building permits:
All permits' value, residential and commercial:
1. There was a significant, though not full, rebound in multi-unit permits in late 2009 and into 2010. This is commensurate with the rebound in construction employment coming out of the recession.
2. The detached market is extremely hot right now. This is evident through significant price appreciation of detached-zoned lots in the City, notably (but not exclusive to) the west side.
3. Detached permits have been falling significantly since mid-2010. Seasonality in permit applications cannot be discounted; I would not be surprised to see detached permit applications rebound going into the first half of 2011. A builder friend of mine claims the City's permit office has a backlog it's working through.
4. The building recession in late 2008 through mid-2009 is now bookended.
5. The data presented here show what a severe housing recession looks like and hint at how dependent the City is on sustained permit revenue to fund its operations.
6. The permit data are coincidental with faltering sales, however the permit data are released with about a month's delay; sales are available with virtually no delay thanks to paulb over at vancouvercondo.info. It's worth remembering that with housing markets, prices are a lagging indicator.
7. Laneway housing continued its upward trend. Builders and the permit department are likely becoming more familiar with the process and relevant codes (and likely fine-tuning it as they go). I would expect to see a continued increase in laneway housing permits, barring any major pullbacks in the availability of credit.