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City new-home starts enjoying growth

A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada looked at 28 municipalities across Canada with regards to housing starts. It charted these cities in terms of both short- and long-term growth potential.

Each of the 28 municipalities was then placed on a quadrant indicating short- versus long-term timelines and growth in new-home starts versus a decline in new home starts.

The study looked at four cities in Atlantic Canada, five in Quebec, 11 in Ontario and six in the west. Of particular interest to us were Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and, of course, Winnipeg.

The results showed that 17 of the 28 municipalities were projecting short-term growth. Long-term growth was projected for 10 of the 28 municipalities.

There were five cities (Trois-Rivières, Kingston, Sudbury, St. Catherines-Niagara and Kitchener-Waterloo) for which they were calling for both short- and long-term declines. Conversely, there were four cities (Winnipeg, Toronto, London and Victoria) for which they were projecting both short- and long-term growth.

In other good news, it appears as though the export of Canadian building products is starting to turn around. With the United States historically being the largest export market for our building products, its economic situation has hit hard north of the border.

However, in 2011, Canadian exports of building products were up two per cent from the previous year. For the first six months of 2012, building product exports were up a further seven per cent. Petrochemical and asphalt products, tools and machinery and paint products saw the biggest growth, whereas wood and electrical products grew at a below average pace.

Meanwhile, although building product exports to China and the United States continue to grow, our dependence on imports from both these countries grows at an even faster pace.

Finally, renovation spending in Canada remains strong in almost all regions. The exceptions were Saskatchewan and British Columbia. B.C. is relatively easy to explain in that the selling market has been extremely quiet and therefore renovations that preclude sales have also been dormant.

Renovation spending for the first six months of the year in Manitoba is up almost 10 per cent over the same period last year, well ahead of the five per cent Canadian average.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

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