If you’re not paying attention to just how hot London’s economy has become, this might come as a shock.
London Hydro has wired up nearly 3,000 lots — commercial and residential, but mostly the latter — so far this year, nearly triple the number serviced through all of 2016.
“In 15 years, I have not seen this growth,” London Hydro boss Vinay Sharma said, referring to his time in the city.
Another metric from the city-owned electricity distributor: It has added 55 residential subdivisions to its system so far this year, up from 29 in all of 2016, Sharma said.
Add that to other measurements, and it puts new perspective on London’s humming economy.
A 2016 surge in construction led to a record-shattering building boom, with city hall issuing permits for $1.41 billion in construction. The previous record, $1.08 billion, was set in 2011.
The record-setting year was powered by a big jump in residential building permits: The city issued $834.7 million worth of them in 2016, more than double the previous year ($405.1 million).
Local home sales also are shattering records, a seller’s market the likes of which many industry insiders say they’ve never seen.
There were 1,242 homes sold in March, a jump of 44 per cent over March 2016 and a record for that month in London. Another monthly sales record, 1,068, was set in April.
Surging home sales have led to reports of bidding wars, ultra-competitive buyers and sellers hitting the jackpot. Stacey Evoy, head of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors, recently told The Free Press she’d heard of houses going for $15,000- to 45,000 over listing price.
And then there’s arguably the most-watched measurement, the London-St. Thomas unemployment rate. It’s more good news.
The most recent figures, for April, show the jobless rate fell to 5.7 per cent, down from six per cent in March. That’s well below the national rate, 6.5 per cent, and a dramatic departure from a few years ago when, in the fallout of the last recession, London was flirting with double-digit unemployment.
The great recession that hit London about a decade ago was still straining the city when Mayor Matt Brown first entered politics, in 2010. He said Londoners need to keep the boom in context.
“We’ve said time and again that we were especially hard-hit in 2008. We’re continuing to see positive signs of recovery,” Brown said. “It’s important to be optimistic about the future, but to take nothing for granted and recognize we’re not there yet. We’ve got to stay focused.”
Growth is obviously good, but it’s also complicated, as Sharma and London Hydro have found.
The utility budgeted $2.3 million to service new lots this year, but the boom means they’ll now be spending $8 million for such things as utility poles and power transformers, he said.
The next indicator of how London’s economy is doing is due out June 9, with the latest national jobs report and unemployment figures.