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Building permits

Building permits

Municipalities issued building permits worth $6.8 billion in March, a 17.2% increase from February and a level not seen since June 2007. The gain was mostly the result of advances in the residential and non-residential sectors in Ontario.

After two consecutive monthly decreases, the value of residential permits increased 33.9% to $4.0 billion in March, the highest level since March 2010. Ontario posted the largest increase in both single and multi-family permits. In March, six other provinces also recorded gains in the residential sector.

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits edged down 0.4% to $2.8 billion, following a 72.7% increase in February. Lower construction intentions for industrial and commercial permits more than offset a record high value for institutional permits.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. It provides an early indication of building activity.

The communities representing the other 5% of the population are very small, and their levels of building activity have little impact on the total.

The value of planned construction activities shown in this release excludes engineering projects (for example, waterworks, sewers or culverts) and land.

For the purpose of this release, the census metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario/Quebec) is divided into two areas: Gatineau part and Ottawa part.


Preliminary data are provided for the current reference month. Revised data, based on late responses, are updated for the previous month.

The total value of permits increased in eight provinces. Alberta recorded the largest drop in March as a result of a decline in the non-residential sector, after a significant increase in February.

Residential sector: Intentions up for both multi-family and single-family dwellings

The value of permits for multi-family dwellings more than doubled in March to $1.9 billion, following two consecutive monthly decreases. The increase was mainly the result of higher construction intentions in eight provinces, led by Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Municipalities issued $2.1 billion worth of permits for single-family dwellings in March, up 2.5% from February. Higher construction intentions, particularly in Ontario and Alberta, offset declines in other provinces.

Nationally, municipalities approved 17,141 new dwellings in March, up 26.7% from February. The increase came from multi-family dwellings, which rose 55.5% to 10,469 units. The number of single-family dwellings declined 1.9% to 6,672 units.

Non-residential sector: Increase in the institutional component

The value of permits in the institutional component increased 83.1% in March after doubling in February. Institutional intentions hit a record high of $1.3 billion, as a result of increases in all provinces and territories. Ontario, which posted the largest gain, reported higher construction intentions for educational and medical buildings.

In the commercial component, the value of permits decreased 1.7% to $1.2 billion in March following a 22.3% increase in February. The largest drops were in Alberta and Quebec, the result of lower intentions for a wide variety of commercial buildings, such as hotels, offices and warehouses. However, commercial intentions rose in half the provinces. The largest increases occurred in office buildings in British Columbia and in the hotels and restaurants category in Ontario.

Following a strong gain in February, municipalities issued $309 million in permits for industrial buildings in March, down 65.1%. The largest decrease was for utilities and transportation buildings in Alberta and for manufacturing plants in Ontario.

Strong intentions in Ontario

The value of building permits was up in eight provinces. Ontario posted the largest advance following two consecutive monthly declines. The increase in Ontario came mostly from multi-family and institutional permits.

In British Columbia, the increase was mainly a result of commercial and multi-family permits. In Quebec, the combined increase in multi-family and industrial permits more than offset a decline in commercial permits.

In contrast, Alberta recorded the largest decrease as a result of lower intentions for industrial and commercial components. The only other province to register a drop was Newfoundland and Labrador, as a result of declines in single-family dwellings and commercial buildings.

Permits up in most census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits increased in 22 of the 34 census metropolitan areas in March.

The largest increases occurred in Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. In Toronto, the increase came mostly from multi-family dwellings after a decline in February. Most of the increase in Vancouver originated in the commercial component. Montréal posted gains in all components, except single-family dwellings.

In contrast, the largest declines occurred in Calgary, Ottawa and Hamilton. The decline in Calgary came primarily from industrial and commercial buildings while in Ottawa and Hamilton, it came mostly from commercial and single-family permits.

Available on CANSIM: tables 026-0001 to 026-0008 and 026-0010.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2802.

The March 2011 issue of Building Permits (64-001-X, free) will be available soon.

The April building permit data will be released on June 6.

To order data, contact Jasmine Gaudreault (toll-free 1-800-579-8533; 613-951-6321; For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Nicole Charron (613-951-0087), Investment and Capital Stock Division.

Table 1

Dwelling units, value of residential and non-residential building permits, Canada

Table 2

Value of building permits, by province and territory

Table 3

Value of building permits, by census metropolitan area

About the author

Québec Landlords Association (1)

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