Reports may herald very strong year ahead
TWO reports from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation this past week gave confidence and optimism to the residential construction industry. The first was the January start numbers. Normally, January is a slow month affected by our usual bitterly cold weather. Last year, in the Winnipeg CMA, we had 89 single-family detached and 64 multi-family starts for a total of 153 new residences under construction. This represents a typical January. However, this past month, there were 114 single-family detached and 306 multi-family starts for a total of 420, nearly triple last year’s output. Is this a trend for the coming year? No. It’s just a one-month snapshot, and you can’t call a year in one month. However, it does indicate the new-home market remains vibrant. The 2015 Manitoba Housing Outlook Conference was presented by CMHC on Feb. 11. The corporation reviewed the national, provincial and local economic outlooks along with trends and predictions for all housing markets; new-home, resale and rental. This event is one of the industry highlights of the year, and a large crowd listened in earnest. Economically, Manitoba is expected to perform better this year than last. The GDP is expected to increase by 2.4 per cent; employment will grow as the manufacturing sector increases U.S. trade; and immigration numbers are anticipated to remain strong. Although interprovincial migration is still negative, oil prices may slow the move to Alberta. New-home starts, both single-family detached and multi-family, will improve in 2015 from the decline experienced last year. Resale activity is also expected to be on the rise this year as average prices in both markets edge up by a few percentage points. Winnipeg’s numbers mirror those of the province as a whole. One very interesting perspective shared was the largest gains in full-time employment were among the 25- 44-year-old demographic. This is key to the housing market, as this represents the largest segment of homebuyers, particularly first-time buyers. It appears the trend over the past five years of multi-family starts slightly outpacing single-family detached will continue. It is interesting to note the balanced ratio between these two forms of housing is more prevalent here than in most other large Canadian urban centres where the single-family detached home is not as available or affordable. Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba
Home Builders’ Association.