Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau soar 154% in August: CMHC

Housing starts
Photo by Andrei Stanescu/iStock

Builders in the National Capital Region moved at a breakneck pace last month to satisfy pent-up demand for housing, according to the latest figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau skyrocketed 154 per cent year-over-year in August, CMHC said Wednesday, by far the biggest jump among Canada’s major cities. Activity was especially brisk on the Ontario side of the river – builders in Ottawa began work on 1,619 new homes last month, a whopping 167 per cent increase over a year earlier.

But there was also plenty of construction going on in Gatineau as well, as 157 new builds got under way in August compared with 93 the previous year.

As usual, multi-unit dwellings such as condos and apartments fuelled the building binge as the number of starts in that category nearly quadrupled from 398 to 1,472. Meanwhile, builders started 304 new single-detached homes last month, up just slightly from 302 a year ago.

The construction boom is one more indicator of a red-hot housing market that real estate insiders don’t believe is poised to cool off any time soon. 

Although measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 briefly flattened the industry’s steady upward curve earlier this year, home sales – and prices – have continued to climb over the summer.

Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board, for example, sold 2,017 properties in August, a 17 per cent increase over the same month last year. Meanwhile, the average house price soared 22 per cent year-over-year to $592,548, while average condo prices skyrocketed 24 per cent to $383,640.    

Ottawa-Gatineau’s annual pace of housing starts also jumped dramatically last month. CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in the region rose from 10,660 in July to 20,640 last month, a 94 per cent increase that led the nation’s major urban centres. 

CMHC says the annual pace of housing starts across the country rose nearly seven per cent last month compared with July.

The housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 262,396 units in August, up from 245,425 units in July.

Economists had expected an annual rate of 220,000 starts in August, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The increase came as the annual pace of urban starts increased 7.1 per cent in August to 248,154. The pace of urban starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects climbed 9.1 per cent to 201,214 units, while single-detached urban starts fell 1.0 per cent to 46,940.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14,242 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts rose to 213,144 in August, up from 204,597 in July.

– With files from the Canadian Press