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Why Are Housing Starts Down So Much In Windsor – Essex in 2019?

Posted on March 29th 2019 by Lalovich

A lot of economists see statistics such as new housing starts (basically building permits to construct new residential housing) as a leading indicator for the economy. CMHC reported in their March 2019 Housing Start Data, that the Windsor-Essex region’s housing starts had fallen 23% year over year. Is that cause for concern?  Today, we are going to discuss some of the factors we think that are leading to this slowdown and what else you need to know.

Reason 1: Shortage of Building Lots

I know this seems very obvious but this really is an issue. I personally know people who would love to build but can’t find a building lot for sale. A lot of subdivisions are nearing completion and the pipeline to replace them is pretty slim. Basically, not as much supply of building lots compared to last year.

Reason 2: Bringing on Additional Supply of Building Lots is Difficult

We have so much land in Windsor they say, why don’t you just develop it? While Windsor isn’t the most dense city, getting a piece of land to a serviced, shovel ready project isn’t an easy task.  If you have to go through the municipal rezoning process that can take 6 months easily and can cost tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. There are also significant area of red tape to battle through including: biology studies, archeological studies, utility servicing studies, traffic studies, noise studies, etc. This can take years and lots of capital, with no guarantee of success, or can make a project uneconomical. This all leads to decreased supply long term and is a major issue for municipalities all over the province with Windsor being no exception.  

Reason 3: New Home Prices are Getting Unaffordable

Some of these construction costs are driving the pricing of new homes to price points that are no longer affordable for the average person. It’s commonplace to see $700-800k price tags on the average new build. The market has been doing extremely well locally but sticker shock  has to have some effect on demand eventually.  

Reason 4: Labour Shortage Affecting Trades Pricing

Tying into point 3, part of the reason for the large price tags on some of these new builds are the escalating pricing from the trades.  Electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, etc are in high demand and able to command premium pricing in today’s market. This trickles down to the end buyer.  Hard to see this changing anytime soon.  

Reason 5: Its Taking Longer to Build Homes

Essentially the labour shortage also means slower build times.  Back 5 years ago it wasn’t uncommon to build a house in 90 days. Now it’s not uncommon to see 180+ days. This statistically is taking units out of the data.  

Bonus Point: What Does All This Mean for the Resale Market?

This decrease in new home sales activity is adding demand to the resale market. Taking some of the buyers out of the new home market for the above reasons is directing them to the resale market. And the resale market already has a supply-demand imbalance. This increased demand could explain some of the crazy resale statistics to start 2019.

Thats how we are seeing the new home starts data. What are you seeing out there?