Ottawa-Gatineau housing starts fall 12% in May: CMHC

Housing starts
Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau were down 12 per cent year-over-year in May. Photo by Peter Kovessy

Housing starts in Ottawa held steady in May compared with a year earlier, but a steep drop in new builds on the Gatineau side of the river led to an overall decline in housing starts across the region, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Monday.

Builders in Ottawa launched 693 new builds last month, up five per cent from the same month in 2019, the housing agency said. In Gatineau, however, developers started just 327 new homes, a 34 per cent decline from a year earlier.

The drop came as measures designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus dealt a blow to virtually all segments of the local economy, including residential real estate. Home sales were down significantly in May compared with a year earlier, although average house prices continued to rise.

Overall housing starts in the region dipped 12 per cent year-over-year to 1,020. 

Starts of single-detached homes jumped 19 per cent in Ottawa last month to 282, while the number of new multi-unit builds – which include condos, apartments and townhomes ​– fell by two per cent to 411. Single-detached starts also rose on the Quebec side, from 42 to 52, but those gains were more than offset by a massive drop in multi-unit starts, which declined 40 per cent to 275.

Meanwhile, Ottawa’s annual pace of housing starts fell dramatically in May. CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in Ottawa dropped from 10,442 in April to 8,083 in May, a 23 per cent decline. 

Figures for Gatineau were not available because the housing agency did not conduct its monthly starts and completion survey in Quebec in April following the introduction of pandemic measures in late March that brought construction in the province to a halt.

Ottawa’s decline followed the trend in the rest of the country.

CMHC said the annual pace of housing starts, excluding Quebec, in May fell 20.4 per cent compared with April.

Excluding Quebec, the annual pace of housing starts fell to 132,576 in May compared with 166,477 in April. Rural starts in May were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7,772 units excluding Quebec.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts excluding Quebec was 151,072 units in May, down from 155,600 units in April.

– With files from the Canadian Press