Canadian municipalities issued C$7.5 billion (US$6 billion) worth of building permits in August, down 5.5 percent from July, according to Statistics Canada. This was the second consecutive monthly decrease. Despite these declines, the year-to-date value of building permits was up 8.7 percent compared with the same period in 2016, reflecting a C$3.1 billion (US$2.5 billion) increase in multi-family dwellings.
Total construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Canada declined in August, down 6 percent from July. However, the sector has been on an upward trend since 2009.
This upward trend has gradually closed the gap between the value of multi-family dwellings and single-family dwellings. June 2017 was the first month where the value of multi-family dwelling permits for Canada surpassed the value of single-family dwelling permits. Overall, the multi-family component was C$294.3 million (US$235.5 million) higher than the single-family component in June, and C$8.1 million (US$6.5 million) higher in July.
The value of multi-family permits in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal outpaced single-family permits by C$278 million (US$222.4 million) in August, the greatest value difference between these two components on record for this CMA. Historically, multi-family permits have posted higher values every month since December 2010.
Similarly, the value of multi-family permits in the CMA of Vancouver topped single-family permits by C$236 million (US$188.8 million) in August. For July and August, construction intentions in the City of Vancouver were the main contributor to the total value of multi-family dwelling permits.
Population density may be driving this development. Results from the 2016 Census show the City of Vancouver as having the highest population density in the country, with a rate of 5,492.6 people per square kilometer. As for the City of Montréal, it ranks near the top, with a population density of 4,662.1 people per square kilometer. With little space to 'grow out', construction intentions in these municipalities have continued to favor 'growing up' with multi-family dwellings being constructed in order to fulfill housing needs.
The Toronto CMA has not followed the multi-family trend to the same extent as Montréal and Vancouver. The value of permits for single-family dwellings outpaced the value of multi-family dwellings in 2015 and 2016. However, based on the year-to-date value for 2017, the multi-family component has led the residential sector with just over 50 percent of the total value.
In British Columbia, the value of permits for multi-family dwellings has outpaced single-family dwellings every year since 2012. So far this year, the multi-family component has exceeded the value of the single-family component by C$1.6 billion (US$1.3 billion).
In Quebec, the value for multi-family permits has led the residential sector every year since 2013. Thus far, in 2017, Quebec municipalities have issued C$3.8 billion (US$3 billion) worth of multi-family permits, almost C$1 billion (US$0.8 billion) more than the single-family component.
In contrast, the value of single-family permits in Ontario has led the residential component every year, and for year-to-date 2017, the single-family component has surpassed the multi-family component by C$2.1 billion (US$1.7 billion).
Within the Prairie and Atlantic regions, the value of permits for single-family dwellings continues to lead the residential sector each year. In August 2017, the value of single-family dwelling permits led the residential sector by C$180.3 million (US$144.3 million) in Alberta, C$32.2 million (US$25.8 million) in Saskatchewan and C$27.7 million (US$22.2 million) in Manitoba. However, for the current month, the value of multi-family permits in Nova Scotia led the residential sector by C$3.3 million (US$2.6 million), bolstered by activity in the CMA of Halifax.