Vancouver Sees Welcome Boosts to Housing Starts and Building Permits: Reports

Joannah Connolly
June 8, 2016

New home construction starts in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) saw another welcome increase last month, trending at 28,267 units in May compared with 27,304 units in April, reported the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) June 8.

The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts.

“Housing starts are trending higher than last month in all home types,” said Robyn Adamache, CMHC’s principal market analyst for Vancouver.

“So far this year, actual single-detached and multiple starts have outpaced last year’s totals for the period in response to low inventories of unsold new homes and high demand for ownership and rental housing.”

Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA were trending at 1,291 units in May, a slight increase over the 1,278 units in April, but still short of February’s high.

The rise in housing starts in Vancouver and Abbotsford-Mission bucked the national trend in May. Across Canada, the trend measure of housing starts was 191,000 units compared with 194,950 in April.

“Housing starts slowed in May, and are now on pace to reach 191,000 units in Canada – falling within the upper range of our housing market outlook forecast for the year,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist. “The decline we see in the trend is led by fewer [multi-family] starts in urban areas, particularly in larger centres like Toronto.”

CMHC pointed out that 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

On the same day that the CMHC issued its housing starts figures, Statistics Canada published its monthly residential building permit values report.

New home construction permits issued in Vancouver in April 2016 were valued at a total of $563 million, a rise of 27 per cent compared with the previous April, according to the statistics agency, and an increase of 6.4 per cent over the month before.

The much-needed boost was again driven by condo-apartment buildings, permits for which increased 23 per cent year over year to total value of $329 million in April.

There were $159 million worth of permits for single-family homes issued in April, up 16.2 per cent year over year.

The steepest gains were seen in attached residences (row homes and townhomes, but not duplexes), which leaped 130 per cent over April 2015 but still only totalled a fifth of the permit valuess seen for condos, at $67 million.

Interest in building new duplexes stayed in the doldrums, with just $3.5 million of permits issued in Vancouver CMA in April, although this was a rise of 3.7 per cent year over year.

Residential permits across BC in April were up 35 per cent year over year to $867 million in value, a rise of 13.6 per cent compared with March.

The national picture told a different story in April. Across Canada, $4.1 billion worth of residential permits were issued, a four per cent drop compared with the same month last year, although this was a near-12 per cent rise since March.

To see Statistics Canada’s interactive building permits tables, click 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.