Condo craze drives up housing starts

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Canadian builders are showing little fear of a slowdown, as housing starts last month hit their highest level nationally since September 2007, according to the federal housing agency.

Warm weather and first quarter pre-sales on condos were credited for driving much of the gains.

Some 244,900 homes were started in April, beating expectations, said the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The largest gain was in urban starts in Quebec, up 57 per cent, the report said. The GTA also saw a 19 per cent spike in new housing starts.

There was also a big disparity between starts in single family homes and multiple units. Multiple-unit starts in urban areas rose 27 per cent to 158,500, while single-family starts were up less than one per cent, at a pace of 67,700. The level of multiple starts, which include condominiums and apartments, was the second-highest monthly reading on record.

“Most of the increase was in the multiples segment," said Mathieu Laberge, a CMHC economist. "The increase in this segment is partly a reflection of the high level of pre-sales in large multi-unit projects since 2011, which is in line with job gains over the last year."

He said the single family home start figures were more level with what is usual at this time of year.

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