Gatineau housing starts hit 50-year high in May


Fuelled by a wave of apartment construction, housing starts in Gatineau hit a 50-year high in May as builders in the National Capital Region continued to launch new projects at a torrid pace, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Builders in Ottawa-Gatineau launched 1,165 new units in May, up from 775 in May 2018, the national housing agency said in its monthly housing starts report.

Across the region, multi-residential starts – which include townhouses, apartments and condo buildings – accounted for most of that growth, surging 82 per cent to 886 units. By contrast, starts of single-detached dwellings actually declined slightly, from 289 to 279.

Builders in Gatineau were especially busy last month. CMHC said developers on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River got to work on 507 new builds, up substantially from May 2018’s mark of 214 and the most monthly starts in the city in the last five decades. The bulk of those projects – 465 – were in the multi-residential class.

CMHC attributed the surge in starts to sustained demand for rental housing, noting “the aging of the population and the low vacancy rate have continued to stimulate starts of this type in the Gatineau area.”

Meanwhile, builders in Ottawa also picked up the pace in May.

The number of starts in the city jumped 17 per cent year-over-year to 658. The number of new multi-residential projects rose by more than a third to 421, offsetting a seven per cent drop in single-detached starts from 254 to 237.

Year-to-date starts in Ottawa are up 14 per cent compared with 2018, according to CMHC, with condo construction leading the way.

“Rising ownership costs are shifting demand toward relatively more affordable dwellings and tight resale market conditions are encouraging builders to increase supply of condominium apartment units,” the agency said.

Ottawa-Gatineau’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts rose to 13,778 units in May, up 21 per cent from April’s tally of 11,419, the agency added.

The annualized pace of multi-unit projects surged 41 per cent to 10,632, while the pace of single-detached starts plummeted 19 per cent to 3,146.

Nationally, the pace of housing starts slowed in May, CMHC reported.

The agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts slipped to 202,337 units in May, down 13.3 per cent from 233,410 units in April.

Economists on average had expected an annual rate of 205,000, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The annualized pace of urban multiple-unit projects such as condominiums, apartments and townhouses fell 18.5 per cent to 141,851 in May, while the pace of single-detached urban starts rose 1.8 per cent to 45,095.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15,391 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates was 201,983 in May compared with 205,717 in April.

– With files from the Canadian Press