Canadian New Housing Starts Are Now Crashing As Inflation Forces Builders To Pause

Canadian new housing starts are returning to reality as cheap capital starts to ease. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the country’s state-owned insurer, reported housing starts fell in October. Housing starts are exactly what they sound like — homes that have started construction. The drop was large enough to be considered a technical “crash” from earlier this year. This follows the trend of falling investment, which should drag starts even lower.

Canadian Housing Starts Are Trending Lower

Canadian housing starts have begun to slow down dramatically from their peak. The trend reached 264,264 units in October, down 2.4% from the previous month. A “trend” measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts. The CMHC often uses the number because it smoothes volatility. Though that’s what SAAR is for, so it’s sort of a double-smoothing of the data.

Canadian New Housing Starts

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of new housing starts across Canada.

Source: CMHC; Better Dwelling.

Canadian Residential Real Estate Starts Have Crashed 29%

The regular monthly SAAR data was significantly lower than the trend at this point. It fell to 236,554 housing starts as of October, a drop of 5.3% from the month before. This number has now fallen 29% from the peak reached in March, back during the lumber and material craze. October marks the third-month housing starts have been in “crash” territory.

Canada’s Elevated Inflation Is Hitting Home Builders

The housing start slowdown might seem odd with resale purchasing so strong. The industry provided some insight on this a few weeks ago, explaining the risk of inflation. Homebuilders are having difficulty planning around volatile material costs.

In some cases, this has forced some developers to go back to buyers and ask for extra funds to complete the home. Rather than overpricing the risk or risk an unprofitable development, they’re hitting pause. This has resulted in builders delaying half of the planned new housing developments

Don’t conflate falling housing starts with a shortage of supply in the pipeline. At the current rate, housing starts are 9% higher than they were in 2020. It’s also 13% higher than it was in 2019 as well. There’s more supply and relief than we saw pre-pandemic.

The drop in new housing starts is more so an issue of the misallocation of capital (human and financial). When economies go all-in on an industry, normalization can mean a lot of capital finds itself in the wrong place. This leads to an adjustment phase where these resources optimize for better utilization.



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  • Nassim 3 years ago

    Excuses, excuses. This is why Canadian housing will never be affordable. Builders will just stop building any time it’s about to catch up with demand and then blame it on anything they can. This month it’s inflation, in Vancouver they were throttling demand because of “permits” right when absorption fell.

    What I don’t understand is how society got to this point when it wasn’t an issue years ago?

    • Ethan Wu 3 years ago

      Capital. This happens whenever the central bank keeps rates too low, for too long. The increase always resulted in a crash (usually stocks) after they “normalize” at which point they call it the cyclical peak. They never connect the massive cycle peaks and troughs are caused by their manipulation of currency.

      Prior to the 90s they couldn’t do that to the extent they currently can, due to how money is now made.

      • Norm 3 years ago

        Who do you think you are kidding?. In 1979 mortgage rates peaked at close to 20%. Google it so you don’t look foolish

        • Vishal 3 years ago

          @ Norm I don’t think you understand what cyclical peak means. The only one looking foolish here is the person that understands how normalization and deviation standards work.

  • RW 3 years ago

    Developers can’t make a profit while prices are soaring. See Chapter USA, page 2005.

  • Ali 3 years ago

    This might be a dumb question, but is there a difference between the term home builder and developer?

    • Jeff Graham 3 years ago

      Hi Ali, not a dumb question at all actually. A developer usually refers to the company who does all of the roadbuilding / grading / civil (storm, sanitary, conduits) and sells the lots related to a development. Typically, a developer is responsible for everything related to land buying, dirt, infrastructure etc. A homebuilder, on the other hand, does everything from the ground up. They’d be the ones actually building the house. The terms are often used interchangeably because big developers will often also be homebuilders! Hope that clears it up.

  • Daniel Ko 3 years ago

    “This leads to an adjustment phase where these resources optimize for better utilization.”

    Good way to say recession and people need to find a job. You must have been a politician in a past life.

  • ECWH 3 years ago

    Just make investment purchasing within residential zoning illegal and watch the bubble pop.

Comments are closed.