Vancouver construction slows down dramatically, while Montreal soars

Regional variances in housing activity and supply continue to be starkly apparent

Vancouver construction slows down dramatically, while Montreal soars

Sluggish home construction in Vancouver was partially compensated for by accelerated activity in Montreal, latest data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation showed.

The national housing starts trend last month was at 210,915 units, just a little bit lower than the 212,212 reading in December 2019.

This was despite the massive 50% annual drop in Vancouver’s activity, from 2,067 homes in January 2019 to just 1,024 units last month. To contrast, Montreal enjoyed a significant 48% acceleration, from 1,422 starts last year to 2,107 this January.

“The national trend in housing starts essentially held steady in January,” CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said.

Meanwhile, the standalone monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts across the country was 213,224, which was 8.8% higher than December’s 195,892 units.

Urban starts saw their SAAR go up by 9.8% in January to 202,407 units, while multiple urban starts strengthened by 13.6% to 155,140 units and single-detached urban starts shrunk by 0.9% to 47,267 units.

Vancouver and Toronto are emblematic of tight market conditions stemming from market scarcity, itself aggravated further by delays due to regulatory red tape.

“In the 1960s and ‘70s, Canada was building 60,000 to 70,000 apartments a year. When [the government] brought in rent control in the ‘70s, it absolutely cratered new apartment construction; it kind of just petered out to around 1,000 to 2,000 a year,” Centurion Asset Management CEO Greg Romundt said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

“About 40,000 new apartments were built across Canada over the last decade – absolutely nothing compared to population growth and new demand of around 500,000 units per year.”