According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of total housing starts for all areas in Canada declined by 11 per cent in March, recording just under 215,000 units as compared to over 240,000 units in February.
The monthly SAAR of total urban starts declined 12 per cent, with nearly 193,000 units recorded in March. Multi-unit urban starts increased by 11 per cent to about 152,000 units, while single-detached urban starts decreased by 16 per cent to 41,000 units.
Among Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, only Vancouver recorded an increase in total SAAR housing starts in March, up by 98 per cent, with more than twice as many multi-unit starts compared to February. Montreal declined by 12 per cent, and Toronto declined by 26 per cent.
The rural starts monthly SAAR estimate was 21,320 units.
The trend in housing starts was 241,000 units in March, down by 6.0 per cent from 255,000 units in February. The trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly SAAR of total housing starts for all areas in Canada.
CMHC’s Chief Economist, Bob Dugan, says, “Despite the national decline in March, the SAAR of housing starts, and the trend appears to be returning to pre-pandemic levels. With interest rates remaining high, it continues to be challenging for developers and homebuilders to get projects started.”
The economist adds, “We will need to find innovative ways to deliver more housing supply to keep up with demand and ultimately improve affordability.”
Andrew Grantham, with CIBC Economics, said in a note to investors, “Just as population growth is accelerating and demand for housing is rising, homebuilding appears to be slowing under the weight of higher interest rates.
“The 214,000 annualized housing starts in March were down from 241,000 in the prior month and well below the 237K expected by the consensus. The six-month average pace of 241,000 is the slowest since late 2020.
He notes the deceleration in starts was equally split between singles and multiples and was reasonably broad-based across the country, “suggesting little reason to expect a big bounce back next month.”