As temperatures in Calgary increased in May, so did the city’s housing starts.
“The trend of total housing starts increased slightly in May, due to strong construction in both the single-detached and multi-family markets,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst for Calgary with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
For the month of May, housing starts in the city were 11,316 units compared to 11,270 in April. The trend is a six month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of total housing starts.
Jumping into the new home pool is first-time buyer Duncan Hall, 25, set to take possession of his newly constructed condo in July.
“I have rented before but found that owning is smarter in the long run,” he said. “I didn’t like paying someone else’s mortgage when I was renting and wanted to own something that would help me in the long run.”
When deciding to purchase a new home, Hall wanted something “brand new” and well built.
“I looked at other condo buildings that were five to seven years older (and) around the same price but the major benefits were not there.”
Provincially, 41,438 homes were started in May, a number ATB Chief Economist Todd Hirsch said is the highest number of starts for 2013 and the first time since 2008, the figure has increased above 40,000.
“What’s more, the trend over the last several months clearly suggests that the housing market is heating up,” he said. “Between May 2012 and May of this year, housing starts are 14.1 per cent higher than they were in the previous 12-month period.
Hirsch attributes this “boom in home construction” to population growth. In the last 12 months, the Labour Force Survey reveals the labour force in Alberta has grown by 59,400, a 2.6 per cent increase.
“Interprovincial and international migration to Alberta is driving some of the demand for new homes,” he said. “High wages, low unemployment and a younger population are also contributing factors.”
Hirsch said Alberta saw 18,600 new jobs in May, the second highest monthly increase over the last two years. Nationally, Canada saw a gain of 95,000 — an impressive number given the consensus expectation was for an increase of only 20,000.
Nationally, the CMHC reported starts in Canada were trending at 182,756 units in May compared to 182, 791 in April, a six month SAAR.
“The trend in total housing starts was essentially unchanged in May as gains in the multiple starts segment partly offset the moderation in activity that was observed in previous months, especially in Atlantic Canada and Ontario,” said Mathieu Laberge, deputy chief economist at CMHC. “As a result, the trend in housing activity remains close to its historical average and is inline with estimates of household formation.”
The standalone monthly SAAR in Canada was 200,178 units in May, an increase over 175,922 units in April. The SAAR of urban starts increased 14.6 per cent in May to 177,234 units led by a 22.2 per cent increase in multiple urban starts. Rural starts were estimated at a SAAR of 22,944 units in May.
“While the May tally could well provoke the bubble-mongers, note that the six-month average now sits just below 183,000, consistent with underlying demographic demand,” said Robert Kavcic, senior economist, BMO. “A continued push further above the 200,000 mark in the coming months would certainly raise our eyebrows, but any concern seems premature at this point, especially given the volatility of multi-unit starts.”