Housing starts across Canada inch higher in October

by Paolo Taruc

The trend of housing starts across Canada held steady last October following a decrease during the previous month, according to the latest figures from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

October saw 216,770 starts, compared to September’s 215,513 as gains in Montréal, New Brunswick, Ottawa and Thunder Bay helped offset lower numbers in Calgary, London, and Toronto.

In particular, CMHC said the Montréal area saw the highest level ever recorded of residential construction for the month of October, with close to 3,500 housing units started – half of them on the Island of Montréal. Condominium and rental housing construction drove the growth. “The decrease in inventories of completed and unsold condominiums and the low vacancy rates in newer rental buildings seem to have prompted developers to ramp up on construction projects this year,” it added.

An uptick in Vancouver apartments starts helped drive the area’s starts to a 12-month high – but year-to-date starts remain below 2016 levels, mostly due to fewer projects getting underway in the City of Vancouver and on the North Shore this year.

Ottawa saw an annualized 27% rise in housing starts last month on the heels of improved employment and earnings. In New Brunswick, population growth has helped push New Brunswick's housing starts up 28% since 2017 began, following four years of declining construction activity.

Meanwhile, Toronto saw a lower trend last month, following fewer sales of pre-construction units through 2016 and spring of 2017. In Calgary, the pace of total housing starts has slowed down over the past few months despite improved housing demand and labour market conditions – but Calgary’s October figure is still 24% higher than the same month last year.

”Nevertheless, new home construction [across Canada] remains very strong in 2017, as the seasonally adjusted number of starts has been above 200,000 units in nine of ten months so far this year,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.

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