Local housing starts jump

Red Deer home builders hammered out a nearly 40 per cent increase in housing starts last year.

Red Deer home builders hammered out a nearly 40 per cent increase in housing starts last year.

Figures issued by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. on Thursday revealed that work began on 784 homes during 2013, up 38 per cent from the 568 starts recorded in 2012. The tally for 2011 was 555.

Single-detached houses accounted for 389 of last year’s starts, which was up 19.3 per cent from the 2012 figure of 326. Meanwhile, units in multi-family projects jumped 63.2 per cent, to 395 from 242.

The percentage increase in single-family starts in Red Deer was the highest among Alberta’s seven largest urban areas. The Calgary metropolitan area was second, at 7.4 per cent, followed by the Edmonton metropolitan area (5.5 per cent), the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (4.6 per cent) and Medicine Hat (4.4 per cent). Single-detached starts in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge last year were down 20 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively in 2013.

In the case of total housing starts for the year, Red Deer’s 38 per cent year-over-year increase was second only to Wood Buffalo’s 51.8 per cent jump, which reflected a surge in multi-family projects in 2013. The Edmonton metropolitan area was up 14.4 per cent.

The other large centres in Alberta all experienced declines in housing starts: Medicine Hat by seven per cent, Grande Prairie by 2.5 per cent, the Calgary metropolitan area by two per cent and Lethbridge by 1.8 per cent.

Despite their strong 2013 totals, construction starts in Red Deer fell to 34 in December, as compared with 53 for the same month a year ago. Single-detached starts slipped to 24 from 30, while in the case of multi-family units the number dropped to 10 from 23.

CMHC also released year-to-year housing start tallies for communities with more than 10,000 people, including Sylvan Lake and Lacombe.

In the case of Sylvan Lake, there were 223 starts in 2013, with 125 of these in the single-detached category. That compares with 207 starts the previous year, of which 109 were single-detached projects.

Lacombe finished 2013 with 98 housing starts, including 73 single-detached homes. Those figures were down from 209 total starts and 82 single-detached starts in 2012.

Nationally, seasonally adjusted housing starts in urban areas decreased by 5.1 per cent in December, said CMHC. There were declines in the Prairie provinces, Atlantic Canada and Ontario, with multi-family starts down 4.1 per cent across the country and single-detached urban starts 6.7 per cent lower.

“The trend in housing starts has remained essentially stable since October 2013,” said Bruno Duhamel, CMHC’s manager of housing analysis.

Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, said 2013 began with steady home-building activity but levelled off.

“As we look to 2014, we’re expecting activity to cool off a little bit further. Basically what we’re going to see is home builders putting up houses at a rate that is required by the population.

“We saw a period of under-building during the recession, coming out of the recession we saw some overbuilding and now it looks like we’re going to gradually get down to fundamental levels.”

On Monday, the City of Red Deer revealed the value of the construction work it approved in 2013. In the case of residential building permits, the figure was virtually unchanged from 2012, at just over $115.6 million.

Kevin Wilkie, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association — Central Alberta Region, said he expects this year to be another busy one for local builders. He pointed to the strength of the local economy and the availability of lots in new subdivisions as factors at play.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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