Photo: Robert B. Moffatt/Flickr

Following a three-year high in September, housing starts in Canada declined in October, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for Canadian housing starts was 198,065 in October, down from 231,304 the month prior, the nation’s housing authority said in a report released today. The SAAR indicates what level housing starts would reach if current activity persisted for a year by multiplying the monthly number of starts — in this case October 2015’s — by 12.

However, depending on the numbers you look at, the outlook for Canadian housing starts varies. Although the national SAAR for all housing types was down 14.4 per cent from the month before, the trend measure was 206,089 in October, up from 202,793 the month before. The trend is arrived at by averaging SAARs over a six-month period.

The CMHC says the SAAR for starts can be “misleading” as it is heavily impacted by the multi-unit market, which can fluctuate considerably on a month-to-month basis. The six-month trend seeks to counteract this.

CMHC is predicting 2015 to turn out to be a big year for purpose-built rental construction. “Rental starts across urban centres are poised to reach their highest level since 1992 due to low vacancy rates in recent years,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, in a statement.

Broken down into five major regions — Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia — only British Columbia saw an increase in urban starts, which are groundbreakings in urban centres with populations of at least 10,000. There, the SAAR was 33,462, up from 27,600 in September. Despite experiencing a month-0ver-month drop, Ontario had the highest SAAR, which hit 72,515 in October, down from 89,193 the month before.

Looking ahead, CMHC recently predicted housing starts would “moderate” starting this year. October’s SAAR decline seems to be in line with the crown corporation’s expectation that housing starts will finish the year at 186,900 units.

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