Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Housing-starts lag seen as blip

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THE pace of new-home construction slowed for the second straight month in November, but 2012 is still shaping up to be the busiest year in more than two decades for local homebuilders.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. official said Monday homebuilders are on track to finish the year with the highest number of single-detached starts in 23 years and the highest number of multi-family starts in 25 years.

"Total housing starts in the Winnipeg (Census Metropolitan Area) are maintaining an elevated pace as the new-home market responds to a growing population," Dianne Himbeault, CMHC's senior market analyst for Winnipeg, said in an interview.

The president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association also said 2012 will go down in the books as a banner year for the local industry.

"Every single person I've talked to is having an extremely good year," Mike Moore said.

He and Himbeault both downplayed the significance of the recent drop-off in housing starts, noting October and November of last year were both unseasonably warm months.

That enabled homebuilders to post some unusually strong numbers, Moore said. So it's no surprise they weren't able to maintain that same level of activity this fall, when the weather was less favourable.

"Also, we've been going full bore all year, so it's assumed it will slow down a little bit at some point," he added.

Moore also noted last month's starts weren't down all that much from a year earlier, with 19 fewer single starts and 23 fewer multi-family starts.

"That (23 multi starts) isn't even one medium-sized project."

CMHC said there were 178 single and 149 multi starts recorded last month in the Winnipeg CMA, which includes Winnipeg and 10 neighbouring municipalities.

That's a combined total of 327 units for the month, which was a drop of 11 per cent from the 369 recorded in the same month last year. That came on the heels of a 36.1 per cent decline in October.

Last month's total left combined starts running 25 per cent ahead of last year's pace after the first 11 months -- 3,896 units versus 3,120. The 3,896 included 1,978 single and 1,918 multi-family units.

Nationally, CMHC said the pace of housing starts declined for third straight month, falling to 17,646 actual starts. That translates to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 196,125 units, down from 203,487 in October.

CMHC said the decrease was mainly due to fewer single- and multi-family starts in Ontario and British Columbia.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 B5

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