new-toronto-housing-market-compressedPhoto: James Bombales

While home construction in Canada will be significantly disrupted through the spring by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the country’s largest real estate consultancies sees builder activity beginning to ramp back up by the summer as restrictions introduced to combat the virus are loosened.

Speaking as part of a newly released web series, Altus Group Vice President and Chief Economist Peter Norman said home construction across the country would experience “considerable interruption” between April and June due to the strict social distancing and business shutdown measures in effect.

“Thereafter starts will begin to pick up again, but still be impacted by short-term interruptions to the sales cycle, and from supply chain turbulence at least through the third quarter. By the fourth quarter, starts are expected to have returned to normal and may even exceed recent highs as builders play catch up,” said Norman.

Altus Group is currently forecasting 158,000 housing starts in Canada for 2020, a massive decline from the 208,700 starts recorded across the country last year. Prior to the pandemic, the firm had been projecting 209,000 starts for the year and 214,000 starts for 2021.

Housing market observers will then be pleased to hear that Norman believes the construction bounce back through 2021 will be substantial, with Altus pencilling in over 210,000 starts for the year.

In mid-March, before the scale of the pandemic’s impact had fully emerged, Altus Group Executive Vice President Patricia Arsenault released a collection of scenarios that sought to outline the potential severity of the future disruptive effects on home construction.

Of the three scenarios explored — a minimal, moderate and prolonged disruption — Altus Group’s current view on the pandemic’s impact on Canadian home construction in 2020 aligns closely with Arsenault’s ‘prolonged disruption’ scenario, the bleakest of the three.

However, Norman’s forecast that housing starts will bounce back in 2021 is more upbeat and closer to the firm’s original pre-pandemic prediction for the year.

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