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March 2021 investment in building construction: residential still hot

May 13, 2021 | By Anthony Capkun

May 13, 2021 – Statscan reports total investment in building construction increased 5.9% to $18.6 billion in March, led by an on-fire residential sector.

On a constant dollar basis (2012=100), investment in building construction was up 5.2% to $14.3 billion in March.

Residential investment

Residential construction investment increased for the 11th consecutive month, up 7.6% to $14.0 billion in March.


Investment in single units jumped 10.7% to $7.8 billion. Quebec led the way with an increase of 30.4%, bringing investment in single homes to $1.9 billion for the province. Investment in Ontario was up 9.8% to $3.3 billion, driven by renovations to single-family homes in the census metropolitan area of Toronto.

Growth in multi-unit construction continued, up 3.9% to $6.2 billion. Gains in Quebec and Ontario led the overall increase in this component, as six provinces reported declines. Both new construction and renovations of condominiums and apartments in the cities of Toronto and Montreal accounted for most of the growth.

Non-residential investment

Non-residential construction investment rose 1.1% to $4.6 billion in March, with all components posting slight increases. Despite this gain, the commercial and industrial investment components were below pre-Covid pandemic levels.

Institutional construction investment was up 2.2% to $1.2 billion. Multiple high-value projects in Montreal contributed to a 2.6% increase in Quebec, where investment totalled $315 million in March. Investments in the province included a new elementary school in Laval and renovations to a secondary school in Montreal.

British Columbia recorded another strong month in March, with the continued construction of new schools in Burnaby, North Vancouver and Vancouver.

Commercial building construction rose 0.8% to $2.6 billion. Six provinces recorded slight gains, led by Ontario and Alberta. Large office building renovation projects in Edmonton and Calgary contributed to the 1.7% gain in Alberta in this component.

Investment in industrial construction edged up 0.4% to $823 million in March. Increases in Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec offset six provincial declines.

Residential investment drives Q1 2021

The total value of investment in building construction rose 9.3% to $53.1 billion in the first quarter, stemming from continued strength in the residential sector (+12.4%). Investment for residential buildings reached $39.5 billion, largely because of increased spending on single units in Ontario (+21.8%) and Quebec (+24.9%).

Non-residential investment rose 1.1% to $13.6 billion in the first quarter, following a 6.0% decline in the previous quarter.

Institutional construction advanced 3.0% in the first quarter, driven by strength in British Columbia and Newfoundland & Labrador, which recorded their highest levels for this component since the start of the series in 2010.

Nova Scotia jumped 55.0%, reporting the highest quarterly value since the third quarter of 2014.

Investment in commercial construction advanced slightly compared with Q4 2020, with the gain largely due to strength in Ontario. However, investment in this component was below pre-Covid pandemic levels, down 13.8% compared with the first quarter of 2020.

The industrial component edged down 0.2%, largely as a result of declines in Alberta.

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