Housing construction: “Toward the worst downturn in our history”?

There were fewer construction sites in October 2023 compared to the previous year, once again plunging Quebec into a significant real estate decline that one expert says could be the worst in the province’s history.

“The improvement in housing construction in September (+19%) will therefore have only been an interlude. The downward trend continued in October and the cumulative decline in construction starts for 2023 has so far been around 35%.

We are still facing one of the worst declines in our history in the same year,” said Paul Cardinal, director of economic services at the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec (APCHQ).

Community housing construction across the province recorded a decline of 21% with 3,297 new buildings. In total, construction of 3,707 homes began in October 2023, a 22% decrease from October 2022, according to data released Thursday by the Canadian Housing Mortgage Corporation (CMHC). In October 2023, the foundations of 410 new individual houses were built (-29%).

These declines brought Quebec back to the rhythm of the last 13 months, while the month of September 2023 recorded its only increase in fourteen months.

Gatineau was the hardest hit

The Gatineau Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) experienced the largest decline in housing construction in October 2023 (-57%), closely followed by the Saguenay CMA (-51%) and Drummondville (-47%).

In contrast, the Trois-Rivières CMA recorded a +279% increase in construction activity compared to October 2022, well ahead of Sherbrooke (+8%).

The Montreal and Quebec CMAs experienced less significant declines at -37% and -18%, respectively. New housing construction began in Montreal in October 2023, compared to 671 in Quebec.

Not surprisingly, in Montreal, more than a third of new housing construction in the province is concentrated in regions with more than 10,000 residents.

On the other hand, regions with 10,000 inhabitants and less recorded a +25% increase in construction starts in October 2023, totaling 750 new construction sites this month, compared to 600 at the same time last year.