Ottawa-Gatineau housing starts hold steady in June, CMHC says

Housing starts
Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau rose slightly year-over-year in June. File photo

Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau held firm in June compared with a year earlier despite the economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Thursday.

Developers in the National Capital Region launched 962 new builds last month, up slightly from 945 in June 2019, the housing agency said. The number of single-detached starts last month matched the 2019 tally of 297, while multi-unit builds – which include condos, apartments and townhomes – inched up to 665 from 648 a year ago.

Starts of single-detached homes ticked up five per cent in Ottawa last month to 276, while new multi-unit builds stood at 389, a year-over-year drop of 31 per cent. The situation was reversed on the Quebec side of the river, where single-detached starts fell from 34 to 21 while multi-unit starts surged from 81 in June 2019 to 276 last month.

While measures designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus have crippled some segments of the local economy, residential real estate appears to be holding its own. Home sales in Ottawa last month were on par with a year earlier, and average house prices jumped about 15 per cent compared with 2019.

However, Ottawa-Gatineau’s annual pace of housing starts showed a decline in June, mirroring the trend in most major Canadian cities. CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in the region dropped from 11,827 in May to 10,852 last month, a drop of eight per cent. 

Nationally, the six-month rolling average of monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts rose to 199,655 in June, up from 197,063 in May.

But CMHC said those figures reflected a bounceback in multi-family starts in Toronto and Montreal after major declines in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency noted that housing starts continued to fall in most other urban centres in June.

“We expect national starts to trend lower in the near term as a result of the negative impact of COVID-19 on economic and housing indicators,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement.

The federal agency said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts came in at 211,681 units in June, up from 195,453 in May.

Economists on average had expected an annual pace of 198,000 starts, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

– With files from the Canadian Press