With Ontarians forced to spend most of the past year indoors, there has been a greater focus on the home. As a result, residents have been using their household savings to tackle home remodelling projects.

Amid the peak of the pandemic, more than 106,000 Ontario homeowners obtained residential building permits -- a 9% increase from the year before, with permits for home improvements jumping by 15%, according to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which tracks property data across the province.

MPAC says while the number of residential building permits dropped in 2018 -- by 18% from the year before -- they increased slightly in 2019 (up 0.3%), then surged in 2020.

In 2020, during a time of pandemic restrictions that included stay-at-home orders, residential home improvement building permits increased by more than 7,500 (to 59,529, up 15% from the year before) and nearly 10,000 above 2018 totals. These permits were for additions, renovations, garages, swimming pools, sheds, and finished basements.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic likely put more of a focus on the home,” says Carmelo Lipsi, MPAC ‎Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Whether it was because people were spending so much more time at home, or maybe had extra disposable income because of cancelled travel, there was a significant increase in demand for building permits to upgrade residential properties.”

According to MPAC's latest property analysis, the City of Brampton was Ontario’s home improvement capital in 2020, after issuing 5,716 residential home improvement permits -- up 70% from 2019.

On a percentage basis, MPAC says the Township of Laurentian Valley topped the list, with 122 permits representing a 149% increase. Suburban municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area also experienced significant increases in both numbers and percentages, led by Mississauga (1,114 permits, up 93%), Milton (863 permits, up 83%), and Caledon (377 permits, up by 86%). 

Brampton was also the top city for renovations and additions, issuing 5,549 such permits -- also the highest per-capita rate, amounting to 3.78% of all residential properties in the municipality. Overall, permits for renovations and additions increased by 11% across the province.

In other categories, MPAC says Ottawa was the provincial leader, issuing 936 permits for pools (part of a province-wide increase of 53%), 122 permits for residential sheds (which were up by 22% across the province), and 202 residential garage permits (the only category that saw an overall drop, -2%).

With pandemic restrictions set to ease further this week, it will be interesting to see if home remodelling trends continue through 2021 and beyond.

However, Lipsi added that the current trends from the property analysis suggest that homeowners' priorities and the marketplace are evolving, so the popularity of home renovations may continue to rise.