StatsCan: Ontario activity – including two big projects in Ottawa and Kitchener – drive September’s national building permit totals

Project Python in Ottawa

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Building permits increased significantly in September in all sectors of the construction economy, Statistics Canada reports.

Nationally, the permit totals rose 17.0% to $9.4 billion – and three-quarters of the growth came from Ontario, the agency said in an Oct. 29 statement. One reason for this increase: With COVID-19 cases rising in many regions in September, some municipalities reported that builders have begun to submit applications earlier as a precaution against potential shutdowns.

By category, StatsCan says residential permits nationally increased 6.9% to $6.0 billion in September. “The value of permits issued for single family homes rose 8.9% to $2.8 billion in September, led by Ontario (+18.0%),” the agency reported. “This was the fifth consecutive monthly gain reported in the province, outweighing the declines posted in six other provinces.”

Five provinces reported an increase in the value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings, lifting the national total by 5.2% to $3.3 billion. British Columbia (+49.1%), after two months of decline, led the nation in growth in this component.

In the non-residential sector, Ontario permits made up half of the national total. The total value of non-residential permits increased 40.6% to $3.4 billion in September, mostly attributable to large projects in Ontario (+$805 million).

Additional permits for Project Python in Ottawa and the Breithaupt Block office building in  Kitchener contributed to a 42.3% rise in the value of commercial permits nationally, increasing the total to $1.9 billion.

The value of permits issued for industrial buildings rose in eight provinces, breaking the downward trend observed over the previous three months. Permits issued in Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island drove the increase of 49.1% to $713 million nationally.

Following two months of declines, the value of institutional permits expanded by 30.2% to $799 million. A $130 million permit issued for major renovations to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Quebec and several permits issued for the new construction of nursing homes and senior citizen homes in Ontario contributed to the increase in this total.

Beyond September, StatsCan says permit totals for the most recent quarter reflect the same volume as in 2019, ending a four consecutive quarters of decline.

“This was the largest gain since the fourth quarter o  2009 when the economy was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and possibly reflected the issuance of permits previously delayed as a result of COVID-19,” the statement said.

“All sectors posted gains in the value of permits issued in the third quarter of 2020, with the residential sector soaring to record levels. Residential permits rose 16.8% to $16.9 billion, the highest level since the start of the modern series which dates back to 2002.”

“Multi-family dwellings drove this upward movement, climbing back to just under the $9.4 billion peak reached in the second quarter of 2019”

StatsCan says in recent years, permits for single family homes have been declining slightly, but in the third quarter, they jumped 36.7% to levels not seen since the first quarter of 2018. As teleworking has become the new normal for many people during the pandemic, the desire for more space may be shifting consumer demand towards single family homes.


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