New home construction takes place in a development in Oakville, Ont., on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canadian homebuilding remains strong despite 20% drop in September, say economists

Economists had expected an annual rate of 240,000 starts in September

Canada’s homebuilding activity remained historically strong last month even though the annual pace of starts plunged 20 per cent from August, economists said Thursday.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 208,980 units in September, down from 261,547 units in August but in line with average readings in 2019.

Economists had expected an annual rate of 240,000 starts in September, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The decrease was driven by weakness in Ontario and British Columbia and lower starts in condos.

However, the six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts rose slightly to 214,647 in September, up from 212,609 in August.

“The national trend in housing starts was largely unchanged in September,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.

COVID-19 has resulted in volatility in multi-family starts, especially in Toronto.

“We expect national starts to trend lower by the end of 2020 as a result of the negative impact of COVID-19 on economic and housing indicators,” he said in a news release.

Broader demand trends remain resilient in the near-term with the level of starts remaining strong by historical standards, said RBC economist Claire Fan.

“Average starts from January to September were one per cent above the same period in 2019 — despite COVID-19 containment measures that shut down wide swaths of the economy in the spring,” she wrote in a report.

“And in Quebec and Ontario, average starts continued to outpace the national comparable while the others, most notably BC, lagged.”

Fan noted that the issuance of permits has remained strong, “suggesting still-solid momentum for housing starts in the near-term.”

Housing starts averaged 237,300 units in the third quarter, up 22.2 per cent from 194,100 units in the second quarter.

“Moving forward, past pre-construction sales gains and low rates should ensure that starts remain elevated through next year,” TD economist Rishi Sondhi wrote.

“Afterwards, some slowing may take place as softer population growth brought upon by the pandemic weighs on housing demand, and ultimately, homebuilding.”

The annual pace of urban starts fell 21.1 per cent in September to 195,909 with starts down in eight of 10 provinces:

Housing starts in Ontario fell by nearly 37,000 units to 78,700 while activity in B.C. fell by 10,900 units to 30,700 units.

Homebuilding activity in Quebec dropped by 7,500 to 48,000 units.

Alberta drove higher starts in the Prairie region where urban starts climbed by 5,700 to 24,800 units, offsetting losses in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Starts in Atlantic Canada slipped with declines in every province but Nova Scotia.

The pace of urban starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects decreased 27 per cent to 146,005 units, while single-detached urban starts increased 3.4 per cent to 49,904.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13,071 units.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Adam Walker. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach voters wait to see if they must return to the polls

Byelection could be required if councillor wins seat as MLA

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Parksville man faces charges after incident at car dealership in Duncan

Police were alerted to suspected break-and-enter in progress

(Black Press file photo)
Parksville Qualicum Beach crime report: Bank discovers counterfeit Canadian currency

Oceanside RCMP received 249 complaints in one-week period

Jordan Jay Ward, 20, is wanted Canada-wide for manslaughter. (Calgary police photo)
UPDATE: ‘Suspicious’ man seen in Parksville woods not manslaughter suspect

Hikers say he resembled Jordan Jay Ward, wanted Canada-wide

From left: BC NDP candidate Adam Walker; BC Liberal Party candidate Michelle Stilwell. (Submitted/file)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates wait for mail-in ballot count

NDP’s Adam Walker has lead over B.C. Liberal Party’s Michelle Stilwell

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Most Read