As Canada approaches the harsh winter months, it looks like the nation’s housing starts remained steady through November 2019, according to the latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The trend in housing starts was 219,047 units in November 2019, basically unchanged from the 218,253 recorded in October 2019. The trend is a six month moving average of seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR).
The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts was 201,318 units, up 0.3% from October 2019. The SAAR of urban starts increased 0.4% to 188,559 units, with multiple-unit starts increasing 2.3% to 141,753 and detached starts dropping 5.1% to 46,806.
"The national trend in housing starts was essentially unchanged in November, reflecting slight increases in the national trends of both multi-family and single-detached starts" said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist, in a release. "Vancouver saw a significant decline in the trend of multi-unit starts for a second consecutive month in November, following a period of elevated construction activity earlier in the year. However, this decline was offset by modest gains in the multi-unit trend in most other major markets, including Toronto."
After looking at the data provided by CMHC, we’re slightly confused by Dugan’s statement. In Toronto, the multi-unit trend dropped from 27,180 to 19,991 units (October to November), a difference of 26%. On a year-over-year basis, multi-unit starts in Toronto went from 3,568 units in November 2018 to 1,666 in November 2019, a drop of 53%.
When we look at Vancouver’s numbers, for multi-unit starts, the year-over-year starts went from 1,436 units in November 2018 to 2,073 in November 2019, an increase of 44%. And from month to month, the SAAR of multi-unit starts climbed from 12,168 units in October 2019 to 24,876 in November 2019, a whopping 104% increase!
So, either the data is wrong, or Dugan’s quote is incorrect, because he said that Vancouver experienced a drop in multi-unit starts, while Toronto saw an increase, but it was actually the opposite, according to the data.
There’s a chance we’re interpreting the chart incorrectly, as the starts are divided between two categories, “single-detached” and “all others,” and we are assuming the latter is multi-unit housing because CMHC’s housing starts data has always been divided into these two types of housing. Perhaps there is another type of housing included in “all others” that we are overlooking that could bring the number of multi-unit starts down.
As a whole, Canada’s housing starts are going strong heading into the winter months, and with strong new condo sales in Toronto over the last couple years, and new home sales picking up steam through 2019, construction will likely remain steady into 2020.