Housing starts came in like a lion in March, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
There were 261 housing starts of all types in Winnipeg and the neighbouring municipalities in March, 18 per cent more than the number of units started in March 2005. This is the best performance for the month since 1989.
“Three solid months of gains so far this year indicates that demand for new homes remains high and is not waning,” said Dianne Himbeault, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Manitoba.
Single-detached housing starts surged ahead by 11 per cent in March, with foundations laid for 140 homes, compared to 126 in the same month last year.
March also saw starts rise sharply within the city limits where there was a year-over-year gain of 13 per cent. In the surrounding municipalities the gain was just four per cent.
After three months of robust activity, the number of year-to-date starts totalled 380 units by the end of March, the highest quarter result in 16 years.
Year-to-date starts in Winnipeg jumped 11 per cent over the same period in 2005.
After a slow start, construction began on larger multiple-family projects in March with foundations laid for 121 units, a 26 per cent jump from the 96 units in March last year.
To the end of March, there have been 155 multiple-family starts, 38 per cent more than during the same period last year.
Nationally, the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 252,300 units in March, up from 242,500 units in February, according to CMHC.
“Apartment starts surged in a number of centres in March,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Despite the rise in multiple starts in March, single starts decreased for a second consecutive month, suggesting that the pace of new home starts will begin to pull back.”
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose 4.7 per cent to 219,700 units with activity in single and multiple starts diverging.
Multiple starts were up 18.6 per cent to 123,000 units comparing March to February, while singles were down 8.9 per cent to 96,700 units.
A jump in multiples construction in Montreal meant the Quebec region led the country with a 21.2 per cent increase in urban housing starts to 48,100 units.
Strong growth in each of the Prairie provinces led to a second consecutive month of double-digit gains in urban housing starts in the region.
Rural starts in March were estimated at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 32,600.
In the first quarter, actual urban starts were up 19.1 per cent when compared to the first quarter of 2005. Year-to-date urban starts were up in all regions of the country compared to last year. Single starts were up 16.7 per cent while multiples were up 21.1 per cent.