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Canada’s housing starts see continued regional impacts in May

June 8, 2020  By Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

CMHC’s monthly Starts and Completions Survey (SCS) for April was conducted in each province with the exception of Québec, following the introduction of pandemic measures in the province in late March. Residential construction in Québec resumed on April 20. We have resumed the SCS in Québec in May. This press release includes national housing starts totals without Québec in order to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic where the SCS survey was conducted in both April and May.

The trend in housing starts was 196,750 units in May 2020, down from 198,644 units in April 2020. Excluding Quebec, the trend was 151,072 units in May 2020, down from 155,600 units in April 2020. This trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

“Outside of Quebec, the national trend in housing starts decreased in May,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist. “Higher multi-family starts in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces were offset by declines in British Columbia and the Prairies. We expect national starts to continue to register declines in the near term, reflecting the impact of COVID-19 measures.”

CMHC uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of Canada’s housing market. In some situations, analyzing only SAAR data can be misleading, as they are largely driven by the multi-unit segment of the market which can vary significantly from one month to the next.


The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada excluding Quebec saw a decrease of 20.4 per cent in May from April. The SAAR of urban starts decreased by 21.6 per cent in May. Multiple urban starts decreased by 27.2 per cent while single-detached urban starts decreased by 3.9 per cent.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7,772 units excluding Quebec.

Preliminary Housing Starts data are also available in English and French through our website and through CMHC’s Housing Market Information Portal. Our analysts are also available to provide further insight into their respective markets.

Like many other government organizations, businesses and individuals, we are closely following developments around COVID-19. The monthly release of our Preliminary Housing Starts data will continue as planned. CMHC will report any impact on our ability to collect housing data.

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.

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