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Building permits March 2021 – 3rd consecutive month of “record-setting numbers”

May 4, 2021  By Anthony Capkun

May 4, 2021 – Statscan reports March 2021 marked the third consecutive month of record-setting numbers as building permits rose 5.7% to $10.9 billion, reflecting a booming residential sector.

(Constant dollar estimates are available, for the first time, for the building-permit series dating back to 2011, adds Statscan. On a constant dollar basis [2012=100], building permits increased by 4.0% to $8.1 billion, a number only surpassed by the April 2019 value of $8.2 billion.)

Residential sector continues its surge

The residential sector climbed 15.9%, clearing the $8.0 billion mark for the first time in March 2021.


Multi-family dwellings jumped 24.5% compared with February to $4.3 billion. This gain is largely the result of permits issued for residential towers in the cities of Toronto, Burlington and Vaughan.

Single-family homes also reached new heights, increasing 7.6% to $3.8 billion. The census metropolitan area of Oshawa, Ont., was responsible for just over 1/3 of this growth.

Institutional and commercial drag down non-res sector

Following a month in which several major permits were issued for care facilities, institutional permits fell 33.5% to $732.1 million. Eight provinces posted a decline in this component, with Quebec (-54.5%) recording the most significant drop.

Commercial permits decreased 14.6% to $1.5 billion, about 25% lower than the average monthly value reported in 2019. After declining slightly in the first two months of 2020, commercial permits took a large hit at the start of the pandemic, and have since averaged around the $1.5 billion mark observed in March.

Industrial permits, the only component to report a gain in the non-residential sector, rose 16.4% to $650.5 million. Several major permits were issued, including a new relay control centre for railroads in the city of Montreal and the Rutherford Station of the Go Transit system in the city of Vaughan, Ont.

Overall, the non-residential sector fell 15.6% to $2.8 billion.

Still, it’s another record-setting quarter

Three consecutive monthly highs led to a record-setting first quarter, up 12.7% to $31.2 billion compared with Q4 2020. Gains were reported in all components.

On a constant dollar basis, the Q1 2021 posted the largest value since the start of the series in 2011 ($23.3 billion), beating out the previous record of $22.3 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

The first three months of 2021 were the highest-posted in the residential sector (+15.0%). Single-family homes (+22.8%) showed stronger quarterly growth than multi-family dwellings (+8.3%), and both reached new heights by breaking previous records set in Q4 2020.

Despite rising 7.5% in the first quarter to $9.1 billion, construction intentions for non-residential buildings have not fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic, remaining well below the peak of $10.6 billion set in the fourth quarter of 2019.

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