Low-rise construction boosts Ottawa August housing starts: CMHC

Ottawa bucked the trend for housing starts, according to the latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

While housing starts slowed across the country, Ottawa starts were trending at 6,253, more than 800 higher than July.

CMHC senior market analyst for the region, Sandra Peres Torres said Ottawa's higher numbers were supported by an increase in low-rise construction.

"Year-to-date, the share of low-rise starts has risen to 68 per cent compared to 54 per cent in 2013," she said in a statement. "Demand for such dwellings is supported by gains in full-time employment for the 45-64 year-old age group (the move-up buyers)."

Nationally, the annual pace of housing starts slowed in August to 192,368 units, down from 199,813 in July.

The pace fell short of the 195,000 units forecast by analysts.

"The Bank of Canada may be looking for a rotation away from housing and the consumer, but low rates continue to support residential investment," CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said in a report.

"But despite recent resiliency, we still expect housing's contribution to growth to slowly wane as we progress through this business cycle, with affordability concerns and a weak labour market putting pressure on the building sector going forward," he said.

The federal agency said Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted annual rate slipped as the pace of urban starts fell to 175,668 in August, from 182,524 in July.

Multiple urban starts in August decreased to 110,842 units from 115,495 in July, while the single-detached urban starts segment decreased to 64,826 units from 67,029 in July.

"The currently elevated level of inventory of newly completed and unoccupied condominiums, and units under construction, supports CMHC's view that condominium starts will likely see a declining trend over the coming months as developers and builders seek to limit risks of over-building," CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said.

"However, there may still be some variability from month to month as the number of presales for some planned condominium projects reaches sufficient levels to trigger project start."

Regionally, the seasonally adjusted pace of urban housing starts fell in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, while it picked up in British Columbia and the Prairies.

Urban home starts were essentially unchanged in Quebec compared with July.

The tick lower in the overall pace of housing starts followed a report Monday that municipalities issued worth $9.2 billion worth of building permits in July, driven higher in part by plans for apartment and condominium projects in Ontario and British Columbia.

The value of building permits issued was up 11.8 per cent from June and the fourth month in a row that they increased.

The housing market has been closely watched by the Bank of Canada.

In its recent interest rate announcement, the central bank noted the housing market has been "stronger than anticipated."

- with files from the Canadian Press