New home construction in Ottawa hits record high

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

The type of housing being built is also changing, as hundreds of additional rental units come on the market and local policies push the city to grow more compactly.

Ottawa is seeing a lot more rental apartments and townhouses than in the past. The number of new single-detached homes remained about the same, while the number of new condominium units under construction fell considerably.

The municipality’s annual report on the state of development is full of figures on the types of houses being built and the number of people moving to – or leaving – different parts of the city.

The city also tracks housing starts reported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and they too hit a post-merger record, with 9,239 units under construction. This represents a 31% increase over 2019. So far, figures for 2021 show that a similar number of units are expected to begin construction this year.

The two methods of measuring construction don’t quite add up, because CMHC’s numbers don’t account for apartments created in existing buildings, staff note.

Supply is behind schedule, say homebuilders

As for population, new suburbs outside the Greenbelt continue to welcome the most new residents, according to the city’s report. Southern communities, such as Findlay Creek and Riverside South, are growing particularly rapidly.

Staff estimate that Ottawa’s population grew by 1.6% last year, to 1,022,604.

The City of Ottawa also monitors how people move through the area or leave it entirely. As in years past, it generally gained residents from other countries or provinces, but lost residents to neighboring communities in Lanark and Leeds-Grenville counties.

The Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association has argued that Ottawa must continue to build enough housing for a growing population, rather than seeing residents move to Carleton Place and commute, for example.

“It’s great to see an increase in housing starts. We desperately need that,” said Jason Burggraaf, executive director of the industry group.

He expects the trend to continue, although some builds are taking longer due to supply shortages and delays. Burggraaf points out that home prices continue to rise, especially in the resale market.

“What that tells me is that despite the high level of new construction, we’re still not getting enough supply in the area to support the population growth that we have,” he said.

Managing housing prices and increasing supply have also been concerns for Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government. Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark called Ontario’s big-city mayors to a summit Dec. 16 to discuss the issue.

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

During a discussion on the budget last week, the general manager responsible for urban planning, Steve Willis, addressed the heavy workload of staff. Seven temporary positions will be added next year to meet increased planning demands, he said.