Now for the Good News on Housing Market

By McNeill, Murray | Winnipeg Free Press, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Now for the Good News on Housing Market


McNeill, Murray, Winnipeg Free Press


Number of new homes built in Winnipeg soars

IT was a case of black and white for Winnipeg's housing market in March.

One day after the resale-homes sector reported its bleakest March sales numbers in nearly two decades, the new-homes side came out with a glowing report showing a nearly doubling in the number of housing starts for the month.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said local builders began work on 515 new single- and multi-family units. That was a whopping 94 per cent increase over the 266 started in March of last year.

The news was a refreshing change from Monday's sobering report from the Winnipeg Realtors Association, which showed existing homes through the local Multiple Listing Service plummeted by 26 per cent to 844 units last month. That was the lowest March total since 1995 and well off the 10-year average for March of 1,043 units.

"It was a bit of a tale of two markets," Dianne Himbeault, CMHC's senior market analyst for Winnipeg, said in an interview Tuesday.

Himbeault said the biggest surge in home-building activity was on the volatile multi-family side of the sector, where the starts more than doubled to 323 units from 136 a year earlier.

But it was also a good month for builders of single-family homes. Those starts jumped by 48 per cent to 192 units, offsetting two previous months of double-digit declines.

"Strength in both the single-detached and multi-family sectors in March helped reverse the downward trend in total housing starts in Winnipeg, which had peaked last October," Himbeault said. "Demand continues to be supported by positive net migration and job creation."

Manitoba Home Builders Association president Mike Moore said one of the reasons for the surge in starts is most builders were finishing show homes in February for the popular Spring Parade of Homes. But that work was completed by the end of the month, which freed up construction crews to start working on new projects in March.

Also, while March was cold, "it wasn't bitterly cold like it was in February," Moore said. "In February, you couldn't even go outside (because of the high wind chills)."

He said a busy March usually bodes well for the spring and summer building season. He noted CMHC has forecasted a similar number of housing starts for this year as for last year. If they're right, builders will be happy.

The CMHC report was one of two upbeat reports released on Tuesday. Statistics Canada also reported Manitoba's construction industry rebounded from a slow start to the year with a 25 per cent jump in building-permit activity in February. …

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