As Ontario residents continued to spend more time at home, homeowners increasingly made improvements to their properties, with the number of issued home renovation permits shooting up 19% in 2021.

A total of 69,488 home improvement permits were filed across Ontario in 2021, according to a recent report from The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), 38,399 of which were for a renovation or addition. This marks an 18% in the province-wide home improvement permit total compared to 2020.

Brampton saw the most permits issued out of any city, with a total of 7,382. Meanwhile Severn Township, located just north of Orillia, saw the largest percentage increase of any municipality, jumping a staggering 545% with 129 home improvement permits issued in 2021 compared to just 20 the year before.

“COVID-19 restrictions were likely a major factor again, with people focused on their home because they were spending so much more time there,” said MPAC Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Carmelo Lipsi. “In every category of home improvement – additions, renovations, swimming pools, garages, decks and sheds – the numbers were up, in many cases by double digit percentages.”

A total of 9,059 permits for residential swimming pools were issued last year, up 33% from 2020. Ottawa in particular saw a plethora of new swimming pools with 1,372 permits issued in the capital alone. This is a 47% jump from the previous year.

Residential shed permits -- required for larger sheds that some homeowners are now using as a separate workspace -- saw an 18% jump. Residential garage permits were up 9%, and residential deck permits saw a modest 2% growth.

"Notably, the increases in 2020 and 2021 represent a marked shift from previous years -- reinforcing the notion that pandemic restrictions were a driver of home improvement decisions," the report says. "By comparison, in 2019 home improvement permits were up by just 5% (with overall building permits increasing marginally by 0.3%), while in 2018 they decreased by 15% (overall permits down by 18%) year over year."

And it wasn't just renovation permits that were up. The number of building permits saw a significant increase too, hopping up 15% to a total of 122,334. Not too surprisingly, the biggest portion of these were issued for Toronto with a total of 9,478, an increase of 28% from 2020. But percentage-wise, Severn Township again led the pack with a 467% increase, going from 48 building permits in 2020 to 272 in 2021.

“This is an interesting trend to watch, to see if it continues once pandemic restrictions have been lifted for good,” Lipsi says. “Many indicators suggest that working from home will be more prevalent than it was pre-pandemic, and we’ll see if that continues to translate to more spending on the home.”

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