Back to Blog

Residential Building Starts and Permits Continue to Soar: CMHC, StatCan

Joannah Connolly
March 8, 2016

Housing starts in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) recovered last month to record their strongest-ever February numbers, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation(CMHC) figures released March 8.

Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) new home construction starts were trending at 24,244 units in February, compared with 20,825 units in January. The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts.

“With declining inventory of new homes on the market and strong activity in the resale market, developers ramped up housing starts of single-detached and multiple-family homes this month,” said Richard Sam, CMHC’s principal market analyst for Vancouver.

“The actual monthly number of housing starts in the Vancouver CMA was the highest recorded over the past 25 years.”

Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA were trending at 1,406 units in February, up from 1,208 units in January, which the CMHC said was due to an increase in both single-family detached and apartment starts.

Across Canada, the trend measure of housing starts was 198,880 units in February, down slightly from 199,107 in January.

“The national housing starts trend held steady in February, despite some important regional variances,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC chief economist.

“Housing starts are trending at a four-year low in the Prairies where low oil prices have weakened consumer confidence. At the same time, starts are trending at an eight-year high in British Columbia, as new and resale home inventories remain low.”

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 housing starts figures were issued as Statistics Canada published its monthly building permit values data March 8.

Vancouver home building permits issued in January 2016 were valued at a total of $369 million, a rise of 34.7 per cent compared with the previous January, according to the statistics agency.

This was led by a leap in condo-apartment building permits, which rose 83 per cent year over year to total $226 million in January.

Vancouver’s detached homes permits totalled just less than $113 million in January, and nearly $25 million of permits were for townhomes and row homes.

The metropolitan region’s total dollar value in January was a 36.2 per cent month-over-month drop compared with December 2015’s unusually high figure of $558 million.

Residential permits across BC in January were up 19.2 per cent year over year to nearly $513 million in value, which was a drop of 35.9 per cent compared with December.

In other BC cities surveyed, Abbotsford-Mission’s building permits remained almost flat year-over-year at $9.7 million, which is a huge drop of 81 per cent from December’s $51.5 million.

Victoria echoed Vancouver’s pattern, with its $32 million in permit values an impressive rise of 59.7 year over year but a drop of 36.2 month over month.

Kelowna bucked the trend this month, rising 38.7 per cent since last January and 127 per cent since December’s poor showing, to total $33 million worth of permits issued.

Across Canada, the value of permits issued was nearly $2.2 billion, a 13.6 per cent drop compared with the same month last year and a 35 per cent drop since December.

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.