* Prices rise 0.1 pct in January, as expected * Price growth eased from year earlier to 2.2 pct OTTAWA, March 14 - Prices of new homes in Canada rose 0.1 percent in January from December, as forecast, but the year-on-year price growth continued to soften to 2.2 percent from 2.3 percent previously, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday. New housing prices had risen 0.2 percent in December. The Toronto-Oshawa metropolitan region, the country's biggest real estate market, and Calgary, Alberta contributed most to the monthly increase, Statscan said. Overall, prices rose in nine cities, fell in five and were flat in seven in the month. On a year-over-year basis, the biggest price decreases were in the West Coast cities of Victoria and Vancouver, where prices fell 2.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. The Canadian government, which imposed tighter mortgage rules in July, and the Bank of Canada have long expressed concerns the housing market might overheat. But recent data has shown the market is cooling. Forecasters in a Reuters poll published on Feb. 26 expected a soft landing rather than a U.S.-style crash, predicting Canadian housing prices will fall 7.5 percent in the next several years. The new housing price index excludes condominiums, which the government says are a particular cause for concern.