Ottawa-Gatineau housing starts surge in May, sustaining spring construction boom

Apartment construction

Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau continued to tick upward in May compared with a year earlier, fuelled by a sharp rise in multiple-unit projects such as condos and apartments, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says.

Builders began work on 1,718 new housing units in the National Capital Region last month, up from 1,020 in May 2020, CMHC reported this week. It’s the third month in a row that housing starts have nearly doubled compared with 2020, suggesting developers are working overtime to play catch-up amid surging demand for inventory in the capital’s red-hot market.

Most of those gains were in multi-unit starts, which jumped 91 per cent year-over-year to 1,310. Single-detached starts rose by a more modest 22 per cent to 408.

The biggest increase came in apartment and condo starts on the Ontario side of the river, which spiked 117 per cent from 411 in May 2020 to 892 last month.

Meanwhile, the region’s annual pace of housing starts – a rolling average designed to smooth out monthly fluctuations – edged up slightly last month.

CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in Ottawa-Gatineau was 20,200, a three per cent rise from April’s rate of 19,579. While the pace fell more than 20 per cent in Gatineau, Ottawa’s rate rose 18 per cent to 14,655.

Nationally, the agency said the annual pace of housing starts in May rose 3.2 per cent compared with April, as starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects rose higher.

The housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts climbed to 275,916 units in May, up from 267,449 units in April.

The annual pace of urban starts rose 1.8 per cent in May to 254,647 as a rise in multiple-unit starts offset a drop in starts of single-detached homes.

The rate of multiple-unit starts climbed 10.9 per cent to 190,530 in May, while the annual rate of single-detached urban starts fell 18 per cent to 64,117 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 21,269.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 280,779 in May, up from 278,462 in April.

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press