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Housing starts in Winnipeg take steep dive in March

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Local homebuilders slammed on the brakes last month, sending housing starts tumbling by 65 per cent from a year earlier.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said only 180 new single- and multi-family starts were recorded last month in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which includes Winnipeg and 10 neighbouring municipalities. That compared with 515 starts in March of last year.

It was the third straight month that new-home construction activity in the Winnipeg area lagged behind the last year’s pace. It followed declines of 19 per cent in January and 10.7 per cent in February.

"The trend in total housing starts declined in March due to a moderation in both the single-detached and multi-family sectors," said Dianne Himbeault, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Winnipeg.

"While new home construction in 2014 is expected to be lower than last year, employment growth and migration remain positive and should continue to support housing demand moving forward," Himbeault added.

The volatile multi-family-housing sector took the biggest hit last month, with the number of new starts plummeting by 86 per cent to 45 units from 323 a year earlier. Single-family starts were down nearly 30 per cent to 135 units from 192.

The continued slowdown left total starts running 44 per cent behind last year’s pace after the first three months — 500 units versus 891.

The pace of housing starts also slowed last month at the national level.

CMHC said there were 10,781 actual starts in the month, which extrapolated out over 12 months produces a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 156,823 starts.

That’s down from 190,639 starts on the same adjusted basis in February.

On a seasonally adjusted annual basis, urban starts were down 18.8 per cent in March.

On the same basis, multiple urban starts decreased by 25.5 per cent while single-detached urban starts segment slipped by 5.4 per cent.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased in British Columbia and the Prairies and decreased in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec, the agency added.

— Staff/Canadian Press

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