The decrease came as the annual pace of urban starts fell 3.0 per cent in January to 153,701 units.
Multiple urban starts decreased by 5.3 per cent to 95,406, while single-detached urban starts increased by 1.0 per cent to 58,295.
The pace of urban starts fell in Quebec, the Prairies and British Columbia, but increased in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12,160 units.
The six-month moving average of the seasonally adjusted annual pace was 199,169 units in January compared with 203,304 in December.
"Housing starts trended down across the country with the exception of Ontario," CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said.
"The overall decline is mostly attributable to a slowdown in the Prairies where the housing starts trend was at a four-year low in January. The slowdown in new housing activity coincides with an unemployment rate that is at a five-year high in Alberta".
The Canadian Press
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Friday that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts for the first month of the year was 165,861 units, down from 172,533 in December.