Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Canadian housing starts rose a better-than-expected 5.3% in September to 194,000 units on an annualized basis. Housing starts are a volatile indicator, so we focus on the trend level of starts. September’s increase took the 6-month moving average slightly higher to 190,000 units from 188,000 in August.
The increase was mainly driven by a 5.9% rebound in multi-unit construction, which had fallen sharply in August. Single-family homes posted a more muted 1.4% increase in September.
The majority of regions in Canada saw an increase in construction activity, except for Ontario which posted an 18% decline in starts.
The slight firming in the trend level of housing starts is consistent with the renewed strength seen in the existing home market this year. However, we continue to expect that the extended period of overbuilding in the Canadian housing market is on its last legs. Putting some perspective on today’s number, the trend pace of homebuilding is 16% below last year’s peak.
We expect the next leg down in new home construction will be fairly gradual, with housing starts declining to demographically supported levels (175,000 units) by the end of next year as further interest rate increases lean against demand for new homes.
Leslie Preston, Economist