The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased by 7.3 per cent 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. Alberta reported the fourth consecutive monthly growth, up 4.2 per cent to $1.1 billion.
The value of residential permits decreased by 7.3 per cent 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 per cent to $2.8 billion, with the largest decrease originating in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Vancouver, down $841 million. This was due to an increased number of permits being issued in January to pre-empt an increase in local development fees. At a national level, the value of permits for multi-family dwellings rose 10.3 per cent, in February.
The total value of permits for single-family dwellings increased by 8.3 per cent to $2.6 billion. These gains were driven by housing developments in Ontario, 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 per cent to $3.2 billion. This decrease was largely due to declines in the value of industrial permits (down 25.3 per cent to $514 million), mainly in Quebec.
The value of institutional permits declined by 4.5 per cent to $705 million. This was largely due to decreases in Alberta (down $74 million) and British Columbia (down $62 million). The total value of commercial permits was down 2.2 per cent to two billion, with declines reported in six provinces.
COVID-19 shrinks March permit estimates
Statistics Canada has released a “preliminary flash” estimates of building permits for select regions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimates are based on open-source building permit reports for 23 large municipalities, as well as municipal building permit reports submitted to Stats Canada by April 2.
On a year-over-year basis, the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities fell 23.2 per cent 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 virus. In Montreal, the number of permits filed declined 37.6 per cent in March compared with the same period a year earlier. In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5 per cent compared with March 2019.
Outside of central Canada, investment intentions in the Maritime provinces showed resilience with building permits in Halifax surging 153.1 per cent, as both the residential and non-residential sectors increased compared with March 2019. Additionally, the number of permits in Charlottetown increased by 31.6 per cent from a year ago.
In Western Canada, the value of building permits declined 3.2 per cent to $861 million as the fall in investment intentions for British Columbia offset gains made in Alberta. As B.C. reported many of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in Canada, construction intentions likely slowed earlier than in the rest of Western Canada. As noted, the 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.