Renovation permit numbers are still strong in Windsor-Essex

For the first time in three years, Ontarians are spending less money on home improvements after reaching all-time highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

Officials with MPAC told CTV News that home renovations are down across the province, but note that doesn’t appear to be the case in Windsor-Essex.

“Although we’re seeing about a 12 per cent decrease in residential permit activity overall in Ontario, [in the] Windsor-Essex area, what we’re really seeing there is a decline of about 6 per cent,” said Carmelo Lipsi, MPAC vice president and chief operating officer.

Lipsi said the decrease across the province could be credited to an increase in the cost of financing, with higher interest rates making things more expensive.

Also, homeowners are now spending renovation money on travel experiences instead of their homes.

“The cost of any renovations or permits now has gone up,” Lipsi explained. “So the motivation that we’re seeing is a move away from that to some degree and moving more to experience, travel, and even really spending money in those areas.”

He continued, “Even though we’re seeing a slowdown, keep in mind that we saw some pretty high increases in permit activity in 2020 and 2021. 2022, although we’re seeing a bit of a drop, it’s still higher than what it was was pre-pandemic.”

“Although there’s a bit of a softening in permit activity, [there is] still significant permit growth within the province. [Prices are] still higher than it was pre-pandemic times and we’ll continue to monitor this next year as well,” said Lipsi. “We’ll see if this trend continues or if we start to see some differences in permitting activity across the province.”

According to the City of Windsor’s building department, the number of permits issued between January and May of this year for things like residential alterations, repairs, finished basements, and house additions, rose by 14 permits compared to the same time a year ago, with 203 permits issued so far.

However, the cost of construction is down by around $2 million during the same period.

“We’re busy,” said Alex Gouin, owner of Ole’ Walkerville Plumbing. “There’s a lot of work going on in the City of Windsor!”

Gouin told CTV News they’re getting steady jobs during this time.

Ole’ Walkerville Plumbing. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“A lot of homeowners come in from out of town,” Gouin said. “They’re moving to Windsor, where they may be selling a home in Toronto or somewhere and they come down and they say ‘Wow, your home is so affordable’ and we always laugh. But what they end up doing is they end up renovating their home, investing some of the money that they may have made on that sale into the house.”

MPAC said the most common permits in Ontario are for renovations, additions, decks, garages, and swimming pools.

Gouin said their most popular requests include work inside bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and small additions.

“The biggest ones are the bathrooms and the basements,” Gouin said. “People are trying to get the most out of the living space at that unit and give them some additional dwelling.”

Gouin added, “We’re just seeing an influx in renovations and we’re happy with it.”

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