New home construction in Ottawa hits record high

·3 min read
A luxury condo building under construction on Ottawa's Wellington Street W. in May 2021. (Kate Porter/CBC - image credit)
A luxury condo building under construction on Ottawa's Wellington Street W. in May 2021. (Kate Porter/CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa saw more homes begin construction in 2020 than in any year since amalgamation, and the pace hasn't slowed.

The type of housing being built is also changing, as hundreds more rental units go on the market and local policies push for the city to develop in a more compact way.

Ottawa is seeing far more rental apartments and townhomes than in the past. The number of new single detached houses has stayed about the same, while the number of new condo units being built has dropped off considerably.

The municipality's yearly report on the state of development is full of figures about what types of homes are being built, and how many people are moving into various parts of the city — or out of it.

The city also tracks housing starts reported by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and they too hit a post-amalgamation record, with 9,239 units beginning construction. That's a 31 per cent increase from 2019. So far, figures for 2021 show a similar number of units should begin construction this year.

The two methods for measuring construction don't quite align because the CMHC figures don't capture apartments created within existing buildings, staff note.

Supply lagging, say home builders

As for the population, newer suburbs outside of the Greenbelt continue to take on the most new residents, according to the city's report. South-end communities such as Findlay Creek and Riverside South are growing especially quickly.

Staff estimate that Ottawa's population grew by 1.6 per cent last year, to 1,022,604.

The City of Ottawa also tracks how people move around the region, or leave it entirely. As in past years, it gained residents overall from other countries or provinces, but lost residents to neighbouring communities in Lanark and Leeds-Grenville counties.

Building permits issued in Ottawa by housing type

The Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association has argued that Ottawa needs to keep building enough housing for a growing population, rather than see residents move to Carleton Place and commute, for instance.

"It's great to see an increase in housing starts. We desperately need them," said Jason Burggraaf, the industry group's executive director.

He expects the trend to continue, even if some construction is taking longer because of supply shortages and delays. Burggraaf points out that house prices are still rising, especially in the resale market.

"What that tells me is that, despite the high level of new construction activity, we're still not getting enough supply into the area to support the population growth that we have," he said.

Dealing with the price of housing and boosting supply have been preoccupations for Ontario's Progressive Conservative government, too. Premier Doug Ford and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark have called Ontario's big city mayors to a summit on Dec. 16 to discuss the issue.

City of Ottawa staff were not available to comment on their development report, but will present it to city councillors on the planning committee on Monday.

During a budget discussion last week, the general manager responsible for city planning, Steve Willis, did address the heavy workload facing staff. Seven temporary positions will be added next year to keep up with the surge in planning applications, he said.

Ottawa's population inside and outside the Greenbelt

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