Canada housing starts to drop 24 percent in 2009: CMHC

Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:49pm EST
 
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By Ka Yan Ng

TORONTO (Reuters) - New home construction in Canada is expected to drop by 24 percent this year as part of the fallout from a slowing economy, but rebound in 2010, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp forecast on Thursday.

Housing starts are seen to be about 160,250 units for 2009, down sharply from 211,056 units in 2008, the country's national housing agency said in its first-quarter Housing Market Outlook report.

The forecast was revised lower from its the fourth-quarter outlook, which predicted in October that Canadian home building would slip to 177,975 units this year.

This would put starts below 200,000 units for the first time in seven years.

Low mortgage rates and a growing economy contributed to a healthy housing market for years. But home construction, a cornerstone of Canadian growth, has steadily declined in each of last four months as the economy felt the bite of the global financial crisis.

"The economic downturn will result in a decrease in demand for home ownership leading to a decline in housing starts and existing home sales in 2009," Bob Dugan, chief economist for CMHC, said in a statement.

"Housing market activity will begin to strengthen as the Canadian economy rebounds in 2010 and the level of housing starts over the forecast period will be more in line with demographic fundamentals. "

All 10 provinces are expected to show declines in new home construction this year, it said, led by the Western provinces, each with more than 30-percent drops expected for the year.   Continued...