Edmonton leads Alberta in October housing starts

Edmonton led the province in housing startups last month, new Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. figures showed Tuesday.


Housing starts totalled 1,250 units for October in the Edmonton metropolitan area. The Calgary metropolitan area, Alberta's secondhottest housing construction market, added 981 units in the month.


Richard Goatcher, a senior market analyst with CMHC, attributed Edmonton's performance chiefly to apartment construction. "We had an over five-fold increase in apartment starts," he said. "We went from 100 starts last October to 550 this October."


Multi-unit dwellings heavily influence these scores, said Goatcher, because the start of a single project can count as hundreds of startups.


"Projects that are 150, 200 units, you get a couple of them starting in any particular month and it will help punch up your numbers pretty fast," he said.


Edmonton will lead the province in housing startups for the foreseeable future, said Alberta Treasury Branch economist Dan Sumner.


"All of the city-level economic indicators point to that direction," he said.


"Edmonton has added almost double the number of jobs as Calgary over the last 13 months."

The reason, said Sumner, is Edmonton's close relationship with the oilsands, where strong oil prices drive investment and activity.


"Through its relationship to the oilsands, Edmonton is more leveraged to what happens to oil prices, whereas in Calgary it's a little more dependent on oil and natural gas."


Though total October startups in Edmonton outnumber those from the same month last year, 2011's year-to-date score of 7,960 still lags behind the total of 8,646 in the first 10 months of 2010.


Goatcher attributed the slowdown to difficulties in construction. Construction firms "had some inventory issues at the beginning of the year, and then they got hit with some poor building conditions in June with all that wet weather," he said.

"They got behind and they really haven't caught up."


The CMHC says starts across Canada declined slightly in October behind flagging construction of single detached homes.


Goatcher expects significant startup growth in Edmonton next year.


"Alberta in general and Edmonton in particular has probably got a better outlook than most areas across the country and across the world. So we're anticipating improvements in activity in the Capital Region."


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