| OTTAWA, March 8
OTTAWA, March 8 Canadian housing starts inched
higher in February from the previous month, and building permits
rose in January as the long housing boom continued to defy
expectations of a slowdown, separate reports showed on
Groundbreaking on new homes climbed to seasonally adjusted
annual pace of 210,207 units from an upwardly revised 208,934 in
January as robust activity in Ontario offset cooling in British
Columbia, data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp showed.
Economists had expected starts to decline to a 200,000 unit
"Prices are telling builders to build, and that's exactly
what they're doing," CIBC Capital Markets economist Nick Exarhos
wrote in a research note.
Even perennially sanguine economists have begun to call the
Toronto market a bubble, with prices in Canada's largest city
posting double-digit annual increases month after month, well
after analysts had expected the market to cool.
By contrast, the Vancouver market has slowed after the
provincial government imposed a tax on foreign buyers last year
to deter wealthy investors, mostly from mainland China, from
driving up the price of homes.
The uptick in February housing starts pushed the six-month
average to the highest level since the end of 2015, Exarhos
A 12.1 percent increase in single starts offset a 4.7
percent drop in multiples, typically condominiums and
A separate report from Statistics Canada showed the value of
Canadian building permits rose by 5.4 percent in January from
December. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected a 5.0
"An upturn in permit figures over the past several months
suggest that momentum in building could continue for a few more
months yet," Exarhos said. "Chalk up another consensus-beating
result for the Canadian housing market."
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said construction of
new single-detached homes, typically the most expensive segment
of the market, was reaching levels in Ontario, the nation's most
populous province, not seen since July 2008.
The federal government has taken repeated steps to cool the
market and prevent homeowners from taking on too much debt,
shortening the maximum length of a mortgage and requiring a
larger down payment on the most expensive homes.
The building permits report showed increases for every
component, particularly institutional buildings, and six
provinces, led by Alberta, posted gains.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Von