Housing starts stay strong in January thanks to multi-unit builds, CMHC says

Housing starts winter

Housing starts jumped more than 20 per cent in Ottawa last month compared with a year earlier as developers sought to keep up with sustained demand for new homes and rental units, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says.

Homebuilders started work on 450 new dwellings in January, up from 371 starts in the same month in 2020, the federal agency reported this week. 

The bulk of those starts were multi-unit projects such as apartments and condos, which accounted for 318 of the new projects. Single-family starts rose nearly 30 per cent year-over-year to 132.

Across the river in Gatineau, starts declined by 12 per cent compared with January 2020, due largely to a steep drop in multi-unit projects. Builders started work on 125 new condo and apartment units last month, down from 223 a year earlier, while the number of new home starts rose fivefold from 17 to 86.

Meanwhile, the region’s annual pace of housing starts – a rolling average designed to smooth out monthly fluctuations – fell again last month.

CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in Ottawa-Gatineau dipped from 12,847 in December to 10,423 last month, a 19 per cent decline.

Across the country, housing starts rose 23.1 per cent in January, as single-family homes in Montreal started to reach their highest level since February 2008, CMHC reported.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts rose to 282,428 units in January.

Urban starts were up 27.7 per cent to 266,877 units, as starts of multi-unit buildings in cities rose 24.1 per cent to 193,328 units and starts of single-family homes in cities rose 38.1 per cent to 73,549 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15,551 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts was 244,963 units in January, up from up from 238,747 units in December.

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press