Housing Starts and Building Permit Values Recover after Slowdown: Reports

Joannah Connolly
October 11, 2016

Following a sluggish August, Vancouver Metropolitan Area (CMA) housing starts trended somewhat higher in September, according to October 11 figures released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Housing starts were trending at 29,741 units in September, up from 28,123 units in August, reported the CMHC. The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

“After a dip in August, Vancouver housing starts reset on an upward trend in September, given a recent surge in multiple-family residential construction,” said Robyn Adamache, CMHC principal market analyst for Vancouver.

“A number of large multiple-family projects, including rental, were started in Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver City in response to strong housing demand.”

Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA dropped again in September, trending at 937units compared with1,003 in August. This is the second consecutive month that housing starts have trended down, mainly due to a decline in single-detached starts.

Nationwide, the trend measure of housing starts in Canada was 199,503 units in September, versus 196,465 in August, reported the CMHC.

Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said, “Housing starts were on an upward trend in September, as residential construction increased across the country – with the exception of Ontario, where the multiples segment softened to levels that are more consistent with household formation.

“Quebec saw the largest gain in housing starts, due to the development of new rental apartments intended for seniors. That said, Quebec’s growing apartment stock emphasizes the importance of inventory management.”

CMHC said it uses six-month moving averages to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of the state of the housing market. In some situations, said the CMHC, analyzing only the monthly seasonally adjusted data can be misleading in some markets, as they can be variable from one month to the next.

Building Permits

The CMHC’s figures on housing starts came a few days after a Statistics Canada report that building permit values in the region and across the country were also on the rise, published October 6.

Residential construction permits in the Vancouver CMA in August 2016 were valued at just under $548 million, according to the statistics agency – a year-over-year rise of 14.3 per cent, and an increase of more than 25 per cent over July’s figures.

Condo-apartment permits led the charge, with $292 million worth issued in August, an annual rise of 7.4 per cent and a monthly increase of 21.5.

The smaller segment of townhouse and row home construction also saw a boost, with the $94 million in permits issued a year-over-year jump of 84.5 per cent, and 137 per cent higher than the previous month.

Duplex permits increased the most on an annual basis in August, up 252 per cent – but, at a total value of just $8.8 million, this percentage change is extremely volatile month to month and does not indicate a trend.

It was a different picture for Vancouver’s detached homes, for which there were $149 million worth of permits issued, a drop of 0.6 per cent year over year and 1.3 per cent month-over-month.

Across the whole province, there were $935 million of new home building permits issued in August – a healthy increase of nearly 29 per cent year over year and a similar rise of 29.8 per cent over July.

After an early-summer slump, Abbotsford-Mission’s building permits soared nearly 200 per cent compared with last August and 389 per cent over July, to a total of $40.7 million – although, again, these values are small enough to be highly changeable each month.

Victoria also saw a boost in residential building permits issued, up nearly 62 per cent compared with last August, and 13.6 per cent over the previous month.

After a strong July, Kelowna was the only BC centre surveyed to see month-over-month decline in residential permit values, down 24.8 compared with July to just under $44 million, although this was still an annual rise of 35.5 per cent.

Across Canada, residential construction permit values rose a more modest 3.8 per cent year over year to $4.25 billion in August – 4.4 per cent higher than in July.

Of all the provinces and territories, Newfoundland and Labrador took over from Alberta as the region seeing the sharpest fall in residential building permits values nationally, dropping 39 per cent year over year.

View Statistics Canada’s interactive charts here.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.