February housing starts better than 2014

A surge in construction on multi-family homes last month helped Red Deer builders surpass the city’s housing start tally from February 2014. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported on Monday that work commenced on 102 units in multi-family projects last month, up from 79 for the same period in 2014. With starts on single-detached homes slipping to 28 from 31, the monthly total was 130, up from the year-ago tally of 110.

A surge in construction on multi-family homes last month helped Red Deer builders surpass the city’s housing start tally from February 2014.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported on Monday that work commenced on 102 units in multi-family projects last month, up from 79 for the same period in 2014. With starts on single-detached homes slipping to 28 from 31, the monthly total was 130, up from the year-ago tally of 110.

However, the year-over-year increase in housing starts for February wasn’t enough to counter a slower January. Total housing starts for the first two months of this year were 170, made up of 102 multi-family units and 68 single-detached homes. That was down from the 2014 January and February count of 217, which included 165 multi-family and 52 single-detached homes.

Among Alberta’s seven largest urban centres, Edmonton, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had more housing starts this February than in 2014, while Calgary and Lethbridge were down.

For the year to date, Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Wood Buffalo were up as of Feb. 28, while Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge were down.

Nationally, the rate of new home construction in Canada slowed in February to its slowest pace since July 2009.

Royal Bank economist Laura Cooper said the bulk of the weakness was concentrated in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, where extreme cold and severe snow storms dominated during the month.

She said home-building activity should improve as winter recedes, although the uncertainty in crude oil markets will temper new home construction in the Prairies.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Monday the seasonally adjusted annual rate fell to 156,276 units in February, down from 187,025 in January, led by a slowdown in multiple-unit projects.

Economists had expected a pace of 179,000 units.

TD Bank senior economist Randall Bartlett said harsh February weather had an impact but “the trend is clearly toward weakness in the housing market.”

“While the Prairies fared better than most regions in February, the sharp decline in oil prices and trend decline in the housing market suggests that continued weakness can likely be expected, at least over the near term.”

Regionally, urban centres across the country all saw a slowing in the pace of new home construction.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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