On-Site Magazine

Commercial lone bright spot for March building permits

By Adam Freill   

Commercial Construction Industrial Institutional Residential

Commercial segment spared the month-over-month declines posted for residential and non-residential building intentions in Canada.

Building permits, March 2024. (Source: Statistics Canada, Table 34-10-0285-01, Building permits, by type of building and type of work.)

The commercial segment was the only component to buck the trend of falling permit values in March. Looking at the latest month over month figures shared by Statistics Canada, the total value of building permits in Canada decreased 11.7 per cent to $10.5 billion in March. Construction intentions in the non-residential component declined 16.7 per cent to $4 billion, while the residential sector decreased by 8.3 per cent to $6.5 billion. Declines were observed in all components except for the commercial component, which rose 5.8 per cent, adding $123 million compared to February.

On a constant dollar basis, using 2017 as the baseline, the total value of building permits fell 11.6 per cent in March, following two consecutive months of increases.

A lack of major industrial permits issued in March, compared with February, was a major driver of the retreat in the non-residential sector. The industrial component fell 46.1 per cent, or $629.8 million shy of February’s figures, to come in at $736.9 million. The institutional segment was also in decline, falling 22.2 per cent to land at $1.03 billion. The commercial component’s growth helped temper the declines in the non-residential sector as it reported in at $2.2 billion in March.

On the residential side, 16,800 new multi-unit dwellings and 4,200 new single-family homes were authorized in March, and between April 2023 to March 2024, a total of 260,200 new units were authorized. Despite those new permits, permit values for both single-family and multi-family dwellings were down for the month, coming in at $6.5 billion. Ontario led the decline, but there was growth reported in a number of provinces, including Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba.


The total value of building permits in the first quarter of 2024 was $33.4 billion, a 3.7 per cent increase from the previous quarter, and a partial rebound from the fourth quarter of 2023, which was the lowest quarterly total value since the third quarter of 2021. The growth was driven by a 20 per cent rise in British Columbia, which posted significant gains in the commercial and industrial non-residential components, and in the multi-unit residential component. Despite quarterly gains, construction intentions in the first quarter of 2024 remained lower than the average quarterly levels of the previous two years.

Construction intentions in the non-residential sector increased 6.9 per cent to $13 billion in the first quarter, led by the commercial component, which was up 22.3 per cent. Growth was driven by permits for office buildings. Overall, nine provinces and territories reported increases in commercial construction intentions.

The value of residential building permits edged up 1.8 per cent in the first quarter. Growth of almost eight per cent in the multi-unit component was partially offset by declines in the single-family homes component.




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