Housing starts skyrocket

Red Deer builders weren’t deterred by the bad weather in February, as the number of local housing starts skyrocketed relative to the same month in 2013.

Red Deer builders weren’t deterred by the bad weather in February, as the number of local housing starts skyrocketed relative to the same month in 2013.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported on Monday that there were 110 residential starts in the city last month, a 250 per cent increase over the 31 starts recorded in February 2013.

Single-detached homes accounted for 31 of last month’s tally, with units in multi-family projects adding 79. A year ago, there were 18 single-detached starts and 13 in the multi-family category.

Two months into 2014, there have been 217 housing starts in Red Deer. That compares with 184 during the same period in 2013.

Single-detached starts made up 52 of the January-February tally, up from 40; while multi-family starts increased to 165, from 144.

At 17.9 per cent, Red Deer’s year-over-year increase in housing starts to start 2014 is second only to the Calgary metropolitan area’s 61 per cent jump, among Alberta’s largest urban centres. Lethbridge was third, with a 14.9 per cent rise.

The other Alberta centres have all seen their housing starts decline to begin 2014, with the Edmonton metropolitan area down 6.6 per cent, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo sliding 14 per cent, Medicine Hat off 31.3 per cent and Grande Prairie tumbling 59 per cent.

Nationally, CMHC found that the pace of housing starts picked up in February, ending a string of modest declines that began in November. However, CMHC deputy chief economist Mathieu Laberge said housing construction levels have been relatively stable since August, with month-to-month variations of two per cent or less.

“This is in line with CMHC’s outlook calling for a stable housing market in 2014,” Laberge said Monday.

The state of the housing industry is watched carefully as an indicator of the economy’s general health, since construction provides many jobs, mortgage lending is a major business for banks and many Canadian families consider their home to be their biggest investment and asset.

February was the most active month for Canadian housing starts since November, and followed especially bad winter weather in December and January.

BMO Capital Markets economist Benjamin Reitzes said there will likely still be “a gentle easing in starts through the course of 2014, consistent with a cooling housing market.”

CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts was up 7.5 per cent in February. Multiple-dwelling urban starts — condos, apartments and the like — rose 13.3 per cent in February, while single-detached urban starts slipped 2.4 per cent.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, while the rate was stable in Ontario and decreased in the Prairies and British Columbia.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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