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Metro Vancouver Housing Starts and Building Permits See Summer Slump: Reports

Joannah Connolly
September 9, 2016

The number of new homes breaking ground in the Vancouver Metropolitan Area (CMA) trended lower in August than in the previous month, levelling off after what had been a busy few months for home building, according to a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) report released September 9.

Housing starts were trending at 28,108 units in August compared with 30,333 units in July. The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

“While actual housing starts remain well above levels recorded in 2015, August did see a dip in the trend for the first time this year,” said Robyn Adamache, CMHC principal market analyst for Vancouver.

“Large multi-unit condo projects in Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver account for just over half of all new residential starts in August.”

Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA were trending at 1,005 units in August, down from 1,241 units in July.

Across Canada, the trend fell to 195,640 units in August compared with 201,379 in July as the summer slowdown was seen throughout the nation.

“Housing starts declined in August, as construction of multi-unit dwellings slowed in most regions, led by lower activity in Alberta and Manitoba,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC Chief Economist.

“However, housing market activity levels remain elevated and this decline in starts is the market's response to increasing levels of supply. Multi-unit inventories are above average in several major markets across the country.”

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 August housing starts figures were released a day after Statistics Canada published its July home building permit values September 8.

New home construction permits in Vancouver in July 2016 were valued at just over $435 million, according to the federal statistics agency – a year-over-year decline of 44 per cent, although a rise of 22 per cent over June’s even greater slump.

July saw $151 million worth of single-family-home permits issued, down 5.9 per cent year over year, and condo-apartment permits worth just shy of $239 million were issued, an annual drop of 55.5 per cent.

Across the whole province, $713 million of residential building permits were issued in July – a very slight rise over the $708 million seen in June, but a 31.4 per cent fall year over year. Kelowna was the only BC centre surveyed to see a year-over-year increase, nearly doubling with an annual rise of 94.8 per cent, whereas Abbotsford-Mission and Victoria saw the value of their residential building permits issued drop compared with last July, down 57.3 per cent and 20.8 per cent respectively.

Across Canada, the value of residential building permits was down 18.3 per cent year over year, and 4.5 per cent from June, to $4.01 billion. Of all the provinces and territories, Alberta once again saw the steepest year-over-year fall in the value of residential building permits nationally at 36.6 per cent.

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.