In addition to home prices falling for the first time in two years and sales declining as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to learn that housing starts are down across the country as well, according to new data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Housing starts, which the CMHC describes as "the beginning of construction work on the building where the dwelling unit will be located," accounted for 204,717 units in March 2020, compared to 209,109 units in February 2020, a likely indicator that COVID-19 has now begun to have an impact on residential construction activity, says Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist.


Dugan says this trend measure is "a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts." The national housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of starts last month came in at 195,174 units, down from 210,574 in February.

The SAAR of urban starts also decreased by 7.3% in March to 182,553 units. While Multiple urban starts decreased by 13.4% to 124,073 units in March while single-detached urban starts increased by 8.8% to 58,480 units.  Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12,621 units.

New Queen West Logo Housing Starts in Canada - All Areas (CNW Group/CMHC)

On a local level, CMHC says housing starts activity "trended lower" here in Toronto and in Montreal and in the Atlantic region. While Vancouver experienced an "up-tick" it wasn't enough to offset the overall decline in BC. As for the Prairies, the CMHC says conditions were mixed, as activity was slower Saskatchewan, which offset by higher activity in Alberta and Manitoba.

News of the decline in housing starts follows Premier Doug Ford announcing the shut down of the industrial construction industry in the province earlier the month as part of the province's updated Emergency Order, which states new residential starts will be stopped, while residential projects “near completion” can continue.

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