(Adds economist comment, details from the report)
OTTAWA, May 8 (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts fell in April after an unexpected surge in March but remained near a five-year high, data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation showed on Monday.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts fell to 214,098 units in April, slightly above analysts’ expectations of 210,000. The figure for March was revised slightly lower to 252,305 units, the federal housing agency said.
“It’s been a great start to the year for Canadian housing starts, even if April cooled from March’s blistering pace,” CIBC Capital Markets economist Nick Exarhos said in a research note.
The pace of new homebuilding is at its fastest in close to five years, Exarhos said, with a bit more momentum expected, given strength in recent housing permits.
Canada’s long housing boom has shown signs of slowing in recent weeks after a series of government moves to cool lending and impose a foreign buyers tax in Toronto and Vancouver, but starts have defied an expected slowdown for years.
Multiple urban starts decreased 16.7 percent to 134,314 units in April from March, while single-detached urban starts fell 12.1 percent to 65,171, the CMHC said.
The report showed most of the strength in recent months has come from apartment construction in British Columbia and Quebec, partly offset by a decline in starts of multiple units, typically condos or apartments, in Ontario.
The agency had warned of housing problems nationally with overvaluation in areas around Toronto and Vancouver, the two largest markets.
The provincial government of Ontario imposed a 15 percent foreign buyers tax in April, matching British Columbia’s move in August for Vancouver. Prices in the two cities have increased at double-digit percentage rates, sparking fears of a housing bubble. (Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Von Ahn)