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StatsCan building permits report: September 2020


November 11, 2020
By Statistics Canada

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All sectors observed gains in the total value of building permits issued in September, which rose 17.0% to $9.4 billion. Over three-quarters of this growth came from permits issued in Ontario. With COVID-19 cases rising in many regions in September, some municipalities reported that builders have begun to submit applications earlier as a precaution against potential shutdowns.

Ontario and British Columbia drive residential growth

The total value of residential permits issued in September, including single family and multi-family dwellings, increased 6.9% to $6.0 billion.

The value of permits issued for single family homes rose 8.9% to $2.8 billion in September, led by Ontario (+18.0%). This was the fifth consecutive monthly gain reported in the province, outweighing the declines posted in six other provinces.

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Five provinces reported an increase in the value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings, lifting the national total by 5.2% to $3.3 billion. British Columbia (+49.1%), after two months of decline, led the nation in growth in this component.

Quarterly levels near those observed in the fourth quarter of 2019

Following four consecutive quarters of decline, the value of building permits jumped 16.5% in the third quarter of 2020, almost returning to levels observed in the fourth quarter of 2019. This was the largest gain since the fourth quarter of 2009 when the economy was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and possibly reflected the issuance of permits previously delayed as a result of COVID-19.

All sectors posted gains in the value of permits issued in the third quarter of 2020, with the residential sector soaring to record levels. Residential permits rose 16.8% to $16.9 billion, the highest level since the start of the modern series which dates back to 2002.

Multi-family dwellings drove this upward movement, climbing back to just under the $9.4 billion peak reached in the second quarter of 2019.

In recent years, permits for single family homes have been declining slightly, but in the third quarter, they jumped 36.7% to levels not seen since the first quarter of 2018. As teleworking has become the new normal for many people during the pandemic, the desire for more space may be shifting consumer demand towards single family homes.