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September 2020 building permits show growth across all sectors

October 30, 2020 | By Anthony Capkun

Building permits September 2020, Figure 1. Note: Data from Northwest Territories & Nunavut “too unreliable to be published”.

October 30, 2020 – Yesterday, Statscan released its September 2020 Building Permits report. All sectors observed gains in the total value of building permits issued, which rose 17% to $9.4 billion.

Over 3/4 of this growth came from permits issued in Ontario. With Covid-19 cases rising in many regions in September, Statscan says some municipalities reported that builders have begun to submit applications earlier as a precaution against potential shutdowns.

Building permits September 2020, Figure 1.

Ontario and British Columbia drive residential growth

The total value of residential permits issued in September, including single-family and multi-family dwellings, increased 6.9% to $6 billion.


The value of permits issued for single-family homes rose 8.9% to $2.8 billion in September, led by Ontario (+18%). This was the fifth consecutive monthly gain reported in the province, outweighing the declines posted in six other provinces.

Five provinces reported an increase in the value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings, lifting the national total by 5.2% to $3.3 billion. British Columbia (+49.1%), after two months of decline, led the nation in growth in this component.

Building permits September 2020, Figures 2 and 3. Note: Data from Northwest Territories & Nunavut “too unreliable to be published”.

Ontario permits make up over half of the value in the non-residential sector

The total value of non-residential permits was up 40.6% to $3.4 billion in September, mostly attributable to large projects in Ontario (+$805 million).

Additional permits for Project Python in the City of Ottawa and the Breithaupt Block office building in the city of Kitchener, Ont., contributed to a 42.3% rise in the value of commercial permits nationally, increasing the total to $1.9 billion.

The value of permits issued for industrial buildings rose in eight provinces, breaking the downward trend observed over the previous three months. Permits issued in Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island drove the increase of 49.1% to $713 million nationally.

Following two months of declines, the value of institutional permits expanded by 30.2% to $799 million.

A $130-million permit issued for major renovations to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Quebec, and several permits issued for the new construction of nursing homes and senior citizen homes in Ontario, contributed to the increase in this total.

Quarterly levels near those observed in the fourth quarter of 2019

Following four consecutive quarters of decline, the value of building permits jumped 16.5% in Q3 2020, almost returning to levels observed in Q4 2019. This was the largest gain since Q4 2009 (when the economy was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis), and possibly reflected the issuance of permits previously delayed as a result of Covid-19.

All sectors posted gains in the value of permits issued in Q3 2020, with the residential sector soaring to record levels (rising 16.8% to $16.9 billion).

Multi-family dwellings drove this upward movement, climbing back to just under the $9.4 billion peak reached in the Q2 2019.

In recent years, permits for single-family homes have been declining slightly, but they jumped 36.7% in Q3, to levels not seen since Q1 2018. As teleworking has become the new normal for many people during the pandemic, the desire for more space may be shifting consumer demand toward single-family homes, Statscan suggests.

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