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Winnipeg-area housing starts strong in April despite weather

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WINNIPEG-area homebuilders are on a roll.

Housing-start data released Wednesday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) show there was another huge increase last month in new-home construction activity in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which includes Winnipeg and 10 neighbouring municipalities.

The corporation said Wednesday 555 new single- and multi-family units were started in April. That's more than double the 256 units started during the same month last year, and followed a 94 per cent year-over-year gain in March.

'Builders continue to respond to the demands of a growing population supported by net migration'

"After moving higher in March, the trend in total housing starts continued to increase in April based on strength in both the single-detached and multi-family sectors," said Dianne Himbeault, CMHC's senior market analyst for Winnipeg. "Builders continue to respond to the demands of a growing population supported by net migration."

The strong showing caught Manitoba Home Builders Association president Mike Moore by surprise.

"I was such a horrible month weather-wise," Moore said, "so I thought there would be a more of a delay into May."

Moore said while the demand for new homes may be weakening in other parts of the country -- CMHC said housing starts in Canada continued to moderate in April, falling to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 174,854 units from 181,146 in March -- that's not been the case so far this year in the Winnipeg area.

"I think Winnipeg continues to be a strong market for new housing," he said, noting total starts in the Winnipeg CMA were running 44 per cent ahead of last year's pace after the first four months of the year -- 1,446 units versus 1,007.

He said that kind of gain makes it likely Winnipeg-area builders will finish with at least the same number of starts as last year -- 4,065.

"And last year was an outstanding year. So if we can do that again, it shows that last year and the year before were not aberrations," he said. "They are an indication of the strength of our local housing market."

The biggest spike in activity last month was in the multi-family sector, which includes such things as rental apartments, condominiums and row units. Starts there soared by 221 per cent to 283 units from 88 a year earlier.

But things were hopping on the single-family side as well, where the number of starts jumped by 61.9 per cent to 272 units from 168.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2013 B6

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