Building permits

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January 2011  (Previous release)

Municipalities issued building permits worth $5.4 billion in January, down 5.1% from December. Lower construction intentions, particularly for the residential sector in Ontario and the non-residential sector in Alberta and British Columbia, were behind the decline.

Total value of permits

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits fell 13.3% to $1.7 billion, a third consecutive monthly decline and the lowest level since February 2009. The January 2011 decrease came from lower construction intentions in all components, with the largest drops in Alberta and British Columbia.

In the residential sector, the value of permits edged down 0.9% to $3.7 billion following a 19.6% increase in December. The decrease in January occurred mainly as a result of declines in the value for multiple dwellings in Ontario, following a sizeable increase in December.

The total value of building permits decreased in six provinces, led by Ontario and Alberta. Quebec recorded by far the largest increase.

Non-residential sector: Declines in all three components

In the industrial component, the value of permits fell 33.5% to $303 million, as a result of lower intentions for utilities and transportation buildings in Alberta and Ontario. Both provinces had recorded higher construction intentions for these types of buildings in December.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which eases 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.

With this release, seasonal adjustment options were reviewed to take into account the most recent data. Revised seasonally adjusted estimates for each month in the three previous years are released at the same time as the annual revision to the unadjusted data.

In the institutional component, the value of permits decreased 19.4% to $346 million. This fourth consecutive monthly decrease brought the value of permits to their lowest level since February 2005. The decline in January was largely attributable to lower construction intentions for religious buildings in Ontario and Saskatchewan, as well as for day care and nursing homes in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In the commercial component, municipalities issued permits worth $1.0 billion in January, 1.7% less than in December and a third consecutive monthly decline. The January decrease was mainly a result of lower construction intentions for office buildings in Alberta and for retail and wholesale outlets in Ontario and Alberta.

Residential sector: Single and multi-family permits move in opposite directions

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings increased for a third consecutive month, up 12.2% from December to $2.3 billion in January. This was their highest level since April 2010. The advance was a result of higher construction intentions in eight provinces, led by Quebec.

Following a strong gain in December, municipalities issued $1.4 billion in building permits for multi-family dwellings in January, down 17.5% from the previous month. Ontario was by far the province with the largest decrease in the value of multi-family permits. Multi-family construction intentions were also down in six other provinces.

Municipalities across Canada approved 18,057 new dwellings in January, up 2.0% from December. The increase came from single-family dwellings, which rose 8.8% to 7,562 units. The number of multi-family dwellings declined 2.3% to 10,495 units.

Residential and non-residential sectors

Declines in Ontario and Alberta, increase in Quebec

In January, the total value of building permits fell in six provinces.

The largest decreases occurred in Ontario and Alberta. In Ontario, the decline was attributable to lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, which had posted a significant increase in December. In Alberta, the decrease came from the non-residential sector and, to a lesser extent, multi-family dwellings. Manitoba and British Columbia also registered declines because of lower construction intentions for non-residential buildings.

In contrast, Quebec reported by far the largest increase, led by the residential sector. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also posted gains.

Permits down in most census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits fell in 21 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest declines occurred in Toronto, Calgary and Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo. In Toronto, the decrease came mostly from multi-family dwellings and, to a lesser degree, the industrial component. The decline in Calgary was primarily a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings. In Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, the drop came mainly from multi-family permits.

In contrast, Montréal and Ottawa posted the biggest gains. The increase in Montréal came from both the residential and non-residential sectors, with multi-family dwellings accounting for two-thirds of the gain. In Ottawa, the advance was the result of higher construction intentions in most components except industrial buildings.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2802.

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

The February building permit data will be released on April 7.

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 Mariane Bien-Aimé (613-951-7520), Investment and Capital Stock Division.