Ottawa housing starts down 14% in February

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Ottawa’s new home construction sector slowed in February as the number of housing starts fell by 14 per cent, according to Canada’s national housing agency.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said in its monthly report released Friday the number of starts fell to 684 last month compared to 798 during the same time period in 2012.

The number measures how many housing units – including everything from apartments to single-detached homes – began construction.

Seasonally-adjusted rates also showed a decline, dropping to 2,558 units in February from 6,562 units in January.

The decline was spread out over both multiple and single-detached units. Semi-detached homes were the only class to see growth, CMHC said.

“Although they represent a small share of the market, semi-detached homes are becoming increasingly popular as they are more affordable than a single-detached but provide more living space than a row or an apartment,” said Sandra Perez-Torres, CMHC’s senior market analyst for eastern Ontario, in a news release.

The drop in construction of new houses came as sales of already existing homes also fell. The Ottawa Real Estate Board said earlier this week its agents sold 9.3 fewer homes in February of 2013 than the year before.

Nepean was the site of most of February’s new housing construction activity, according to CMHC. About a third of the new starts were concentrated there.

The Ottawa market reflected trends across the country, where the actual number of housing starts last month, without seasonal adjustments, was also down year-to-year.

There were 10,965 starts last month, down from 12,247 in February 2012.

However a big month-to-month jump in multi-unit housing construction was credited with a higher rate of starts when accounting for variation of activity during different parts of the year.

CMHC said its seasonally adjusted rate of housing starts rose to 180,719 units in February, up from 158,998 in January.

The main reason for the increase in housing construction was an 18.4 per cent rise in urban starts, led by a 27.7 per cent increase in multiple-unit dwellings such as condos and apartments.

-With files from The Canadian Press.