TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts fell 0.4 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted rate of 177,300 units from an upwardly revised 178,000 units in November, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said on Friday.
The number of starts in December beat the consensus expectations of analysts who had called for 170,000 starts.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts decreased 0.5 percent to 150,100 units in December.
Urban multiple-family dwelling starts rose 3.2 percent to 87,400 units, while urban single-family dwelling starts fell 5.1 percent to 62,700 units in December.
Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 27,200 units in December.
CMHC said pent-up housing demand, which built up over the 1990s, has enabled Canadian housing starts to exceed long run demographic demand for most of this decade.
The excess demand has gradually decreased and CMHC said it expects construction levels in 2009 to be more aligned with long run demographic demand.
Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway