Fort St John is entering a real estate growth cycle. Led by the LNG and construction sectors, rapid job and population expansion is expected in the Peace River Region.
Despite recent swings in vacancy rate, we may see an increase in rental housing development. Recently, the supply of rental housing has kept up with demand. Age of building plays a significant role in rental rates. Newer and better-maintained buildings tend to rent far better than run down or neglected buildings.
As an investment, Fort St John shows excellent promise. The growth cycle has begun. And, an emerging LNG is bringing billions of dollars of investment and feeding growth.
LNG in Fort St John
Fort St John is situated directly in the middle of the Montney Basin, one of the largest natural gas deposits on earth. The city also stands to benefit from future development of the Liard and Horn River basins immediately to the north.
LNG Canada’s Coastal Gaslink pipeline is bringing huge economic benefits to the Peace Region. Virtually all natural gas extraction happens in the area surrounding Fort St John. As a result, rapid growth is expected in the community.
An example of new development and investment can already be seen and felt in Fort St John. A multi-phased retail development with a 154,000-square-foot footprint, includes the construction of a 126,000-square-foot Canadian Tire store. The project is forecast to be completed by 2020. CT Real Estate Investment Trust bought an enclosed mall together with four acres of excess lands for the development project in 2016. The total cost of the acquisition was approximately $36.7 million, according to a CT REIT release.
In addition to LNG, Site C construction will continue until 2025.
As a result of large infrastructure projects, the population of Fort St John will grow quickly. As a result of good jobs and exceptional lifestyle, residents will stay.
As the largest hub in north-east British Columbia, Fort St John may be poised to be one of the hottest markets in Canada…again!
Fort St John Location
Fort St. John is located in the heart of the Peace River Region. As B.C.’s energy capital, Fort St John is known locally as the “Energetic City”. Much of Fort St John’s community and culture come from the large proportion of its 21,000 residents working in one of the resource industries or service enterprises.
Fort St. John supports a trading area of more than 69,000 people in the city and outlying service region. With a median age of 32.3, Fort St. John is one of the youngest municipalities in Canada.
Fort St John Population
Fort St John population was 21,705 in 2019. This is an increase of 6.57% since 2014.
Population growth is expected to rapidly rise in coming year. Projections are for an increase of more than 9.0% by 2024.
Fort St John Income & Employment
Fort St John boasts a high average income relative to cost of living. Annual median household income was nearly $120,000 in 2019. In addition, the population is much younger than the provincial average with a median age of just 32.4 years.
Despite its reputation as purely a resource town, employment remains diverse.
Fort St John Demographics
Fort St John Vacancy Rate
Fort St John apartment buildings vacancy rate has been up and down over the years. Vacancy has been as low as 0.6% in 2006 and as high as 28.8% in 2016. It is not unusual for the market to see rapid shifts in vacancy rate.
To a large degree, this is a result of a transient population who follow employment. If work slows down, people leave. This is particularly felt in rental housing, as most transient workers choose to rent.
The long-term average vacancy is 9%. However, the vacancy rate tends to follow dramatic ups and downs of oil & gas and other resources in Peace River Region.
Fort St John Housing Prices
Townhome and apartment sales in Fort St John peaked in November and December 2016. At that time, prices rose to over $310,000 per unit for attached dwellings.
The recent slowdown in the north-east market has slowed individual unit sales. There were just 20 attached dwelling sales in 2019. This is expected to rise through 2020 and into 2021.
Fort St John Rental Housing Supply
The number of rental units in Fort St John apartment buildings has risen with each new real estate cycle. Total rental units peaked in 2018 at 2,463 rental units.
A similar decline in number of rental units can be found in each change in the market cycle. Units declined in 2019 to the current 2,329 rental housing units.
Age of rental properties is among to most balanced anywhere in the province. There is a near equal split between 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Fort St John Rental Housing Starts & Completions
Additions to the Fort St John rental pool tend to come in bursts. Rental housing construction in Fort St John has met or exceeded demand over the past 20 years.
Due to a short construction season, a 2-year construction phase is clearly visible in the graph above. For example, projects started in 2013 and 2014 were completed in 2016.
Even a moderate sized rental building can be considered a significant addition to a market the size of Fort St John. Consider that a simple 25-unit rental development would represent a 1% increase in the number of rental units in town.
At this time, the market does not seem to require any new rental housing development. However, due to the inexpensive price of land, it is expected that an uptick in rental housing starts will begin in 2020/2021.
Fort St John Apartment Buildings Market Highlights
- Cyclical resource-based town with rapid up and down movements in the market.
- LNG industry created massive opportunity for growth in the region.
- Median incomes are exceptionally high for a town of less than 25,000 residents.
- Unemployment is low. Job market is diverse and (mostly) blue-collar.
- Vacancy rate tend to yo/yo. We will see another rapid drop in vacancy in the next 18 months.
- Rental housing supply is easily impacted by even small developments.
- Condo prices peaked in 2016 and are coming off a 2-year slide.