Canadian housing starts activity diverged regionally in April: CMHC

CMHC has reported that its monthly Starts and Completions Survey (SCS) for April was conducted in each province with the exception of Québec, following the introduction of pandemic measures in the province in late March. Residential construction in Québec resumed on April 20. CMHC has announced that it will resume the SCS in Québec in May and that the national housing starts totals have been reported without Québec in order to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic where the SCS survey was conducted.

CMHC reports that the trend in housing starts was 199,589 units in April 2020, down from 204,899 units in March 2020. Excluding Québec, the trend was 155,995 units in April 2020, up from 153,463 units in March 2020. This trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

Housing Starts in Canada – All Areas (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)

“Outside of Québec, the national trend in housing starts increased in April, despite the impact of COVID-19 containment measures.” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist. “This reflects strong growth in multi-family starts in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We expect these provinces to register declines in the near term.”

CMHC advises that it uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of Canada’s housing market. In some situations, analyzing only SAAR data can be misleading, as they are largely driven by the multi-unit segment of the market which can vary significantly from one month to the next.

The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada excluding Québec saw an increase of 10.8% in April from March. The SAAR of urban starts increased by 12.4% in April. Multiple urban starts increased by 35.7% while single-detached urban starts decreased by 27.1%.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7,285 units excluding Québec.

Preliminary Housing Starts data are also available in English and French through the CMHC website and through CMHC’s Housing Market Information Portal.

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