Stats Can estimates building permits fell more than 23 percent in March due to COVID-19


Ontario Construction News staff writer

The value of Canadian building permits likely fell more than 23 percent year-over-year in March as officials took action to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Statistics Canada said in a preliminary flash estimate published last week.

Ontario, BC and Quebec showed the largest declines, the national statistics agency said, likely reflecting provincial measures put in place in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5 percent compared to March 2019, the estimate showed.

According to a Stats Can news release, March preliminary flash estimates were calculated using open source building permit reports from 23 large municipalities as well as municipal building permit reports submitted to the agency.

The municipalities accounted for about 29 percent of total building permits by value in 2019, Statscan said, adding the data is not seasonally adjusted.

On a year-over-year basis, the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities fell 23.2 percent to $1.4 billion when compared with March 2019. Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec had the strongest declines, likely reflecting provincial measures put in place mid-month to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Municipalities in central Canada showed the largest declines, as both Ontario and Quebec declared emergencies in mid-March to combat the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. In Montréal, the number of permits filed declined 37.6% in March compared with the same period a year earlier. In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5% compared with March 2019.

Outside of central Canada, investment intentions in the Maritime provinces showed resilience with building permits in Halifax surging 153.1%, as both the residential (+$31 million) and non-residential (+$28 million) sectors increased compared with March 2019. Additionally, the number of permits in Charlottetown increased by 31.6% (+12 permits) from a year ago.

In Western Canada the value of building permits declined 3.2% to $861 million as the fall in investment intentions for British Columbia (-26.8%) offset gains made in Alberta (+11.7%). As British Columbia reported many of the earliest Canadian cases of COVID-19, construction intentions likely slowed earlier than in the rest of Western Canada. A change in development fee costs in January for Vancouver may also have pulled some permits forward as builders avoided cost increases by submitting permit applications earlier than usual.

In a separate news release, Statistics Canada said the value of Canadian building permits fell by 7.3 percent in February compared to January 2020.

The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 7.3% to $8.6 billion in February, driven by the residential component. Declines were reported in five provinces, with the largest decrease reported in British Columbia (-39.2% to $1.3 billion). Meanwhile, Alberta reported the fourth consecutive monthly growth, up 4.2% to $1.1 billion.

Residential permits decreased 7.3 percent to $5.3 billion, mostly due to a significant decline in permits for multi-family dwellings. Permits for multi-family dwellings were down 18.1 percent to $2.8 billion, with the largest decrease originating in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Vancouver (-$841 million). The decrease in Vancouver was mainly due to an increased number of permits being issued in January to pre-empt an increase in local development fees. Excluding the CMA of Vancouver, the value of permits for multi-family dwellings rose 10.3 percent on a national level in February.

Permits for single-family dwellings increased 8.3 percent to $2.6 billion. These gains were driven by housing developments in Ontario (+$205 million), bringing the value of permits in the province to its highest level since December 2017.

In February, the value of non-residential permits was down 7.3 percent to $3.2 billion. This decrease was largely due to declines in the value of industrial permits (-25.3 percent to $514 million), mainly in the province of Quebec.

The value of institutional permits declined 4.5 percent to $705 million. This was largely due to decreases in Alberta (-$74 million) and British Columbia (-$62 million), following strong gains in those provinces in January.

Total value of commercial permits was down 2.2 percent to $2.0 billion, with declines reported in six provinces.

The residential sector reported lower intentions for multi-family components, while the industrial component led the decline in the non-residential sector. The value of building permits dropped in five provinces, with British Columbia recording the largest decrease.


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