Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Renovation engine helps power Canadian economy

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In Manitoba, we're acutely aware of the importance of the renovation industry.

Winnipeg has the third-oldest housing stock in Canada, behind only Halifax and Montreal. We love our traditional neighbourhoods and are only too willing to upgrade our existing homes in order to remain in them for longer periods.

Research shows that we don't renovate our homes to sell them at top dollar; we renovate to improve our standard of living in that home.

Residential renovation spending is an important contributor to the Canadian economy. It accounts for almost four per cent of the GDP, exceeding $61 billion annually. Renovations do not experience the ups and downs of the new-home industry in large urban centres, as there always appears to be a need to renovate something.

Renovation spending skyrocketed with the Home Renovation Tax Credit stimulus during the recent recession. This program not only encouraged homeowners to spend money during tight times, it also served to uncover the nefarious tax cheats who performed repairs without filing taxes. It was an extremely popular and effective measure

However, when the program ended, renovation spending dried up nationally. Some form of reintroduction of this program is definitely in order -- anything that can stimulate the economy while saving honest people money and exposing those who choose to break the law must be good.

To no one's surprise, bathroom and kitchen upgrades are the most popular renovations and continue to grow. Energy-efficiency improvements, exterior renovations and room additions follow. Declining in popularity, but still on the radar, are bedrooms and home-office renovations. Home-equity line-of-credit is the financing method most often used for larger renovation projects.

Every region except for Atlantic Canada is forecasting some growth in renovation spending for 2013. Ontario and Quebec have modest growth rates, while the Prairies lead the country.

Long-term homeowners who anticipate remaining in their current homes represent by far the largest client group for professional renovators. Although jobs done in preparation to sell are significant, they are no more common than first-time buyers fixing things up before occupancy.

The renovation industry is a strong economic driver throughout Canada and especially in Manitoba. Its' contribution to our economy cannot be overstated.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 F4

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