The rise to 211,342 units – up from 205,521 in February – was the highest level since September 2007 CMHC reported Monday. However, there were some clear regional differences.
“Stronger residential construction at the national level is reflected by a rising trend in single-detached and multi-unit starts in Ontario and continued growth of new rental apartments in Québec,” commented CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan.
While Toronto showed an increase across all housing types, Vancouver saw fewer starts for the fourth straight month. However, Vancouver starts remained above the five-year average and hit their highest level for the month since 1972.
Hamilton saw a decline in townhouses, especially popular with first-time buyers in the market, although other housing types saw stronger starts.
Meanwhile, in Montreal there was a rise in multi-family units with new rental units hitting a 25-year high. A decrease in unsold condos also rebooted building in this sector.
Quebec has seen a notable decline in new rental apartment starts this year as the market falls back from two years of historically high building levels in this sector.
The standalone monthly SAAR for housing starts nationwide was 253,720, up from 214,253 in February. There was a 20 per cent jump for urban starts, driven by a 30 per cent surge in multi-family; rural starts were estimated at 18,046 units.
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The trend measure of Canadian housing starts was higher again in March, the third consecutive month of increases.