toronto-condo-crane Photo: Michael Swan/Flickr

Condo groundbreakings were a driving force behind Canadian housing construction once again as the number of national housing starts — home-building projects on which work started — was up in November.

Housing starts across the country trended at 208,401 units last month, up from 206,125 in October, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) said Tuesday.

The national housing agency defines the trend as “a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts” and says the longer-range trend measure compensates for the swings that can skew monthly SAARs (these measure what activity would register if a month’s pace continued for 12 months).

In a statement, Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, noted last month’s performance marked the seventh straight month of increases. He also highlighted the role housing affordability has played in influencing builders.

“Rising single family home prices continue to support demand for multiples, which are poised to reach the largest proportion of urban starts since 1971,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.

“However, inventory management is necessary to make sure that these units do not remain unsold upon completion.”

Housing inventory has been a major talking point in Canadian housing this year, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, where unsold condo units reached a 21-year high earlier this year.

November’s trend measure for starts in the Toronto Census Metro Area inched up to 45,866 units after coming in at 45,766 units in October.

As on the national level, the multi-family segment played a part, said Dana Senegama, CMHC’s principal GTA market analyst, in a statement. “A jump in condominium apartment starts, prompted in part by pre-construction condos getting underway, saw GTA housing starts trend higher in November,” she said.

“Moreover, historically low borrowing costs have kept housing demand high across Toronto and November saw strong low-rise starts, particularly in single and semi-detached homes.”

In fact, single-detached home groundbreakings climbed to 1,011 units in November from 856 in October.

In November, the SAAR of national housing starts registered at a count of 211,916 units, up from 197,712 one month earlier.

Urban starts, which hit a SAAR of 195,121 in November, were up 7.7 per cent month-over-month. In the SAAR of multi-unit segment starts was 137,898 units, up 13.2 per cent from October.

Single-detached urban starts reached a SAAR of 57,223 units, a 3.6 per cent month-over-month downtick, and rural groundbreakings hit a rate of 16,795 units, slightly more than in October.

Starts increased in the Prairies, Ontario and Atlantic Canada while they declined in British Columbia and Quebec.

Of these five major regions, Ontario led the way with new urban homes entering the pipeline. The province’s SAAR for these starts was 84,537 units last month, outpacing 72,554 in October.

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