Declines in Quebec, Ontario cause national housing-starts rate to drop

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts decreased 3.1% in April to 184,700 units, down from 179,000 in March.

The largest decreases for urban areas were in Ontario, down 8% and in Quebec, falling 9.4% to annualized rate of 36,800 starts in April, down from 40,600 in March.

On a year-over-year basis, overall housing starts in Quebec dropped even more, falling 25% in April, CMHC Analyst Kevin Hughes told CRE Online.

Single-detached starts underwent the biggest decline since April 2010, falling 31%, while multi-family starts tumbled 22%.

Hughes said the large decline in single-detached starts is the result of a surplus of resale homes on the market, as well as a consumer shift in Quebec towards condo-ownership.

An aging population, demand from younger buyers, affordability and a government focus on high-density housing have all been prominent factors leading to increased demand for multi-family housing, he said.

“But when you have a convergence of these factors, you do have periods where everyone hops on board at once and you get a larger supply. That’s happened to Quebec a couple of times in the last decade and at the time people were wondering is that worrisome,” Hughes said.

Still, he said each time the market has experienced an oversupply of homes it’s been able to absorb it.

Urban starts in other areas of the country were up 23.5% in British Columbia, 5.4% in the Prairie region and 10.4% in the Atlantic region.

From January through April, housing starts were up 96% in Prince Edward Island compared to a year ago, and up 42% in Saskatchewan. But they were down 48% in New Brunswick during the same period and down 30% in Alberta.

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