The latest survey conducted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) revealed that residential construction remained stable in Quebec during the month of January. The 2,220 starts registered in urban centres with 10,000 or more inhabitants are almost exactly the same number as that recorded in January 2005 (2,211 units). That said, the apparently constant total conceals several qualitatively different results depending on the area and market segment reviewed. While starts in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) were down (-5 per cent), the CMAs of Gatineau (+88 per cent) and Québec (+26 per cent) posted a clearly stronger month of January than last year. In agglomerations with 50,000 to 99,999 inhabitants, the 230 units that got under way were almost double the level recorded in January 2005. CMHC estimates that construction in agglomerations with 10,000 to 49,999 inhabitants reached the same level as it did at the same time last year.
“I believe that, for several areas, the January results reflect some catch-up in the number of starts registered, such that any inference based on these quantities would be rash at this stage of the year. But despite this situation, it emerged that, in the CMAs, residential construction continued to decline, particularly in the multiple condominium segments. As well, the relative strength of the results in agglomerations with 50,000 to 99,999 inhabitants was not entirely surprising, given that a growing number of Quebec residents are settling in these centres,” indicated Kevin Hughes, Senior Economist at CMHC.
In the single-detached home segment, Quebec posted a small gain (+1 per cent) in starts. The survey revealed that construction got under way on 766 houses in January 2006, compared to 759 during the same period the year before. Apart from a significant surge in the Gatineau CMA, where starts doubled, most major urban centres registered significant decreases. Still in this category, Montréal stood out, as this area posted no change of pace in the construction of single-detached homes in relation to the same month last year.
As was the case for single starts, the 1,454 urban multiple starts represent the same level of activity as in January 2005. In the CMAs, a decrease of 7 per cent in starts was noted. Remarkable results in this category were observed in the CMAs of Montréal (-27 per cent) and Québec (+77 per cent). As for centres with 50,000 to 99,999 inhabitants, the strong gains recorded in the agglomerations of Drummondville (75 starts, compared to 29 in January 2005) and Granby (66 starts, versus 28 in January 2005) were notable. “While the decline in multiple starts was due to a slowdown in the condominium segment, we are seeing an increase in this housing type in mid-size agglomerations. In January alone, the condominium starts enumerated in centres with 50,000 to 99,999 inhabitants were equivalent to one third of the total for 2005. The phenomenon of condominiums outside the large cities is certainly one to watch,” added Mr. Hughes.