Decline in housing starts, slower price growth in Metro Victoria market, CMHC outlook report

Decline in housing starts, slower price growth in Metro Victoria market, CMHC outlook report
Construction pace in Greater Victoria expected to cool; rental vacancy rate forecast to rise
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation forecasts a balanced market in the GTA through 2020, with fewer sales expected because of rising interest rates.

“As much as sales are going to come down slightly, we’ll see house price growth be more or less in line with inflation, not the double-digit kind we were accustomed to a few months ago,” said CMHC’s Manager of Market Analysis (Toronto) Dana Senagama. “We’ll likely see higher price growth in the downtown cores of some major GTA areas, like Toronto, Markham and Mississauga, where there are higher concentrations of condominiums.”

The region’s low-rise housing market is forecasted to see a downturn primarily because of land scarcity. However, in suburban areas, like Peel, Durham and York Regions, there will be higher concentrations of single-family detached sales and listings, and that will slow price appreciation.

“There’s not enough serviceable land out there for low-rise homes for singles and townhomes,” said Senagama. “The vast majority of units under construction—about 55,000 of 71,000 units—are high-rise, and that means there are only a finite number of resources, both in terms of machinery and skilled labour. That’s going to affect delivery; the logistics won’t allow it.

“In terms of new construction, the story is going to be more and more condos, and that seems to be where the push is both in terms of policy shift in government and higher house prices dictating demand towards high-rise construction because low-rise is out of reach for first-time buyers, and when the average price is over $1 million, it’s not an easy entry point for any buyer.”

Through this year, Vancouver has born witness to softening home prices across all market segments, and that trend is expected to continue, according to CMHC.

“Over the next two years, we expect the resale market will be characterized by lower sales, higher inventories of homes for sale, and lower home prices compared with the recent market highs in the last two years,” said Eric Bond, CMHC’s principal market analyst for Vancouver. “With the resale market,

expect housing starts to decline in the Vancouver CMA over the next two years, and the majority of the decline will be in the multi-family segment, and specifically in high-rise.”

The number of new homes being built in the capital region this year will fall behind 2017s record high, but residential construction is still expected to remain strong.

Greater Victorias and B.C.s housing markets are facing similar challenges and changes. The latest housing market forecast from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. points to factors such as fewer people moving to B.C. from other provinces, higher interest rates and stricter borrowing rules for buyers needing mortgages.

The report comes as the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. say in a business outlook survey that continuing labour shortages and high housing costs are the top challenges facing economic growth in the province.

“Sales activity has remained quite slow, a lot lower than anticipated — we’ve pulled back quite a bit,” she said, adding some of those in the industry were expecting an unemployment rate closer to six per cent.

B.C. has a five per cent unemployment rate, putting the province at near-employment capacity at the same time the demand for labour continues to rise, the survey said.

CMHC said that home prices in the capital region will not be rising as quickly as in the past, although they are still anticipated to move upward.

As of last September, there were 2,087 unsold homeowner and condominium units in the greater Calgary area, while 7,630 apartment units were under construction, a 32 per cent increase from the previous year.

Hovering above any analysis of capital region housing is the question of affordability, whether its the ability to purchase a home or to rent.

New construction of multi-family development slowed in the Calgary area in March compared to the same time in 2017, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young / Postmedia

The rate of construction for new rental units, over a multi-year period, is the highest seen since the 1970s, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. analyst Braden Batch said. It is being driven by the fact that the vast majority of new households formed in Victoria are choosing to live in rental accommodation rather than their own home.

One suggestion is to ask staff to recommend amendments to the citys housing strategy and related bylaws and policies to incentivize and mandate creation of two- and three-bedroom rental units as part of a larger strategy to increase affordable housing options.

It showed a net migration of 11,588 people, a significant turnaround from the preceding few years that either showed meagre gains in the hundreds to a net loss of 6,527 people in 2016.

Another idea is to bring in an interim inclusive housing-density bonus policy as the foundation for negotiations with developers. Some councillors want any condo units being used as short-term vacation rentals to be designated as commercial by the B.C. Assessment Authority. Others are urging the city to acquire land for afforable housing.

At the same time, as CMHC predicts rents are expected to climb next year and the vacancy rate — even though it is rising — is forecast to be a tight one per cent this year, 1.5 per cent in 2019 and 1.8 per cent in 2020 That will be up from 0.7 per cent in 2017, the federal agency said.

Calgary’s sluggish economic recovery will keep housing start numbers and prices in the city mostly static in the coming two years, said a federal real estate monitor.

Average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Greater Victoria is anticipated to move to $1,145 next year, from $1,065. That figure may seem below the rental market, but that is because it includes older units with lower rates, Batch said.

Home builders, she said, have been more aggressive in their pricing in newer subdivisions, which increases competition with property resalers represented by CREB.

The main reason that the vacancy rate is poised to rise is new rental units coming onto the market, CMHC said.

Another factor keeping the Calgary market afloat, she said, is an influx of newcomers to the city reflected in the most recent city census released last July.

Rental costs will move up not only because of the new units, but as older units turn over, rents for those homes will increase to catch up to the rest of the market, the agency said.

Total housing starts for this year, for market and rental units, are predicted to range between 3,400 and 3,800. Next year, CMHC expects between 2,700 and 3,100 units to be started.

Last years record tallied 3,862 starts — largely multi-family condos and apartments. Of those, 2,966 were multi-family and 896 were single-family.

The rate of growth in prices has backed off from double digits to single digit, CMHC said. As the increase in prices slows, it is expected that production on higher-cost projects will also moderate.

Inventory of higher-end homes has increased from a year ago. This coincides with the Victoria Real Estate Board saying the upper-end of the market has shown softness.

The relative affordability of condominiums appears to be driving low inventory in that segment of the market, CMHC said.

Octobers benchmark price for a single-family house in the capital region was $765,300 while the benchmark for a condo was $495,600, according to the Victoria Real Estate Board.

Higher sales numbers appear unlikely because of more modest predictions of growth for both population and employment, it said.

But the slowing in growth will come from a shift to more condos as opposed to single-detached sales. It is likely that condo prices will continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace, until more supply is introduced into the market over the next two years.