Like many other government organizations, businesses and individuals, we are closely following developments around COVID-19. CMHC is stress-testing pandemic scenarios to assess impacts as events unfold. The monthly release of our Preliminary Housing Starts data will continue as planned. CMHC will continue to monitor this issue and report any impact on our ability to collect housing data.
“The national trend in housing starts declined in March, likely indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to impact residential construction activity.” said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist.
- Activity in Toronto, Montréal and the Atlantic region trended lower.
- Vancouver registered an up-tick, but it was not sufficient to offset an overall decline in British Columbia.
- Conditions were mixed in the Prairies, as lower activity in Saskatchewan was offset by higher activity in Alberta and Manitoba.
Standalone Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR)
- The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada was 195,174 units in March, a decrease of 7.3% from 210,574 units in February.
- The SAAR of urban starts also decreased by 7.3% in March to 182,553 units.
- Multiple urban starts decreased by 13.4% to 124,073 units in March while single-detached urban starts increased by 8.8% to 58,480 units.
About Housing Starts
We track housing starts to gain insight into housing supply.
A housing start is defined as the beginning of construction work on the building where the dwelling unit will be located. This can be described in 2 ways:
- usually, the stage when the concrete has been poured for the whole of the footing around the structure; or
- an equivalent stage where a basement will not be part of the structure.
We release Canadian housing starts every month on the 6th working day.
The time of year can be a factor when collecting data.
We use a rate adjustment to remove the data’s seasonal variations. We then multiply the seasonally adjusted level of starts by 12 to obtain the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of housing starts. The SAAR allows you to compare monthly levels to annual levels for different months of the year. It also gives you a sense of the relative strength of monthly activity.
CMHC uses the 6-month average SAAR with the monthly SAAR of housing starts to obtain a more complete picture of trends in the market.
Providing information on housing starts is another way CMHC supports you in making decisions on housing affordability and contributes to the stability of housing markets in Canada.