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A closer look at Winnipeg's housing market

Free Press reporter Bartley Kives wrote last weekend about city planning and a recent move to more densified housing, even in the suburbs.

Of particular note were the housing starts in Winnipeg for the first four months of 2013. There have been 766 multi-family starts as opposed to 680 single-family detached starts.

Add to this mix discussion of tower structures along the Assiniboine River and in the heart of downtown and one could think Winnipeg is going all metro Toronto where the great majority of residential construction is in the multi-family department.

Before we go too far along in this premise, we should clarify something.

First, the 680 single-family starts represent a more than 20 per cent increase from last year, one of the best years in history. So, it is very clear the growth in multi-family dwellings is not coming at the expense of single-family housing.

Next, this trend in balancing housing types is something relatively recent. However, it does look like it will continue.

Multi-family starts in Winnipeg averaged about 400 units annually throughout the 1990s. It wasn't until 2007 that we cracked the 1,000 mark and, with the exception of 2009, the popularity has continued to grow: There were more than 1,300 units in 2010 and 2011.

Last year saw almost 2,000 units with projections for this year and next year to surpass that mark.

Single-family detached starts averaged around 1,100 throughout the 1990s and increased to 1,700 for the next decade. Starting in 2010 and forecasting through 2014, the number of single family starts in Winnipeg should consistently be in excess of 2,000, an almost 50/50 split.

So, even though multi-family housing is growing at a significant rate, it is not at the expense of the single-family sector. What is the proper mix? That is for the consumer to decide. People will buy what they want to buy.

Winnipeg is not a 'build it and they will come' city. We build based on demand, not outrageous speculation. Consumer demand will help direct developers and builders provide a product the consumer wants.

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

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