Ottawa-Gatineau housing starts nosedive in December: CMHC

Winter construction

Housing starts in Ottawa-Gatineau plummeted more than 60 per cent in December compared with a year earlier, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Tuesday.

Builders started work on 393 new dwellings in the region last month, the national housing agency said, a steep drop from the 1,074 starts recorded in December 2020.

Starts in Ottawa fell more than 50 per cent year-over-year to 365. Across the river in Gatineau, just 28 new builds were launched in December, a decrease of 91 per cent.

Starts of apartments, condos and other multiple-unit housing projects saw the biggest decline. Builders in Ottawa-Gatineau started just 170 new units in December, down from 812 the year before. Single-detached housing starts fell 15 per cent to 223.

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

The housing agency said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new builds in Ottawa-Gatineau was 5,008, a drop of 73 per cent from November.

The slowdown in new construction comes as the region continues to grapple with a serious housing supply shortage that's pushed resale prices to record highs.

Ottawa’s aggregate home price jumped 17.2 per cent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of last year, rising to $739,700, Royal LePage reported Friday in its latest price survey.

Nationally, CMHC said the annual pace of housing starts in December fell 22 per cent when compared with the previous month.

The agency said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 236,106 units for the final month of the year, down from 303,813 in November.

The drop came as the annual rate of urban starts fell 24 per cent in December to 212,918.

The annual rate of urban starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects dropped 29 per cent to 157,687, while the pace of urban starts of single-detached homes fell four per cent to 55,231.

CMHC estimated rural starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 23,188 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts was 260,567 in December, down from 267,606 in November.

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press