Value of Building Permits Declined 13.2% in March

Value of Building Permits

May 14, 2020

The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 13.2% to $7.4 billion in March, with declines reported in seven provinces and two territories. The $1.1 billion national decrease was the largest since August 2014. This reflected notable drops in Ontario (-12.9%), Quebec (-18.1%) and British Columbia (-19.4%), which coincided with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Value of residential permits down

The total value of residential permits decreased 13.1% to $4.6 billion in March.

The value of permits issued for single-family dwellings fell 15.3% to $2.2 billion, with the largest percentage declines observed in Prince Edward Island (-31.8%) and Quebec (-27.0%). The province of Quebec shut down all non-essential business activities, such as construction, on March 24. Conversely, the only gains posted nationally in March were in New Brunswick (+2.3%) and the Northwest Territories (+3.0%).

The value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings was down 11.1% to $2.5 billion, with the largest declines seen in Ontario (-13.0% to $1.1 billion) and British Columbia (-24.4% to $389 million).

Non-residential permits decrease for third consecutive month

Seven provinces reported declines in the value of commercial permits issued, bringing the national total down 19.7% to $1.6 billion. The largest decline in commercial permits was in Quebec (-36.6%), which recorded its third consecutive monthly decrease. 

The value of institutional permits (-15.7% to $602.2 million) was down in eight provinces, with Quebec (-37.0%) posting the largest decline. 

Industrial permits (+14.9% to $583 million) were the only component to show an increase at the national level in March. This was driven by strong gains in Manitoba (+185.9%), reflecting several large permits issued in the Winnipeg metropolitan area.

First quarter 2020: Largest recorded quarter-over-quarter decrease in Quebec

In the first quarter of 2020, the value of building permits declined 1.0% compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. This was the third consecutive quarter-to-quarter decline, yet the value of permits remained 2.1% higher than in the same period a year earlier.

The first quarter started with gains in the value of permits in January that were mainly attributable to British Columbia, where an increase in development fees in Vancouver likely pulled some permits forward as builders submitted their applications before the January 15 deadline. After returning to more normal levels nationally in February, construction intentions dropped in much of Canada as governments and businesses implemented measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in mid- to late March. 

First quarter losses were reported in six provinces, with the most notable decrease in Quebec (-$1.1 billion). However, quarterly increases in British Columbia (+$472 million) and Ontario (+$463 million) offset much of the decline in Quebec. Residential permits issued in the first quarter were valued at $15.8 billion, representing a 5.8% increase (+$867 million) compared with the previous quarter, mainly driven by permits issued for multi-family dwellings.

The value of non-residential permits was down 10.7% to $9.4 billion. Declines in institutional (-$703 million), commercial (-$216 million) and industrial (-$206 million) permits all pushed down the national total.

Source: Statistics Canada,

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