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Alberta housing leads nation: CMHC

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation forecast Tuesday that housing construction and sales will increase modestly in 2013 in Alberta while activity in most of the country slows down.

The Crown corporation’s latest housing market outlook predicts 400 more housing starts in 2013 in Alberta than 2012. That represents just 1.25-per-cent growth, but CMHC predicts national construction activity to decline 6.8 per cent over the same period.

“The economy in Alberta has been improving and is expected to be one of the leaders in economic growth,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst with CMHC’s prairie division. “That will naturally support the housing market.”

Cho said CMHC’s forecast for Alberta hinges on continued job production, international and interprovincial immigration boosting population growth, and the price of oil staying high enough to encourage continued investment in the province’s energy sector.

Oil has been trading around $90 a barrel since early August after reaching a yearly low of $79.69 in June. CMHC forecasts employment growth of 2.5 per cent in Edmonton and 2.9 per cent in Calgary in 2013, and net migration growth of 28 per cent to 57,800 in the coming year.

Tuesday’s edition of the corporation’s outlook, released four times a year, predicts just over 32,000 housing starts in the coming year for the province, 11,000 of those in Edmonton. The forecast calls for the resale market to also grow, reaching 59,800 by the end of this year and 61,000 in 2013.

Cho said the market has favoured buyers until recently and should move to a balanced state, boosting price growth in the process. The CMHC’s forecast calls for prices to rise 2.5 per cent this year and 2.8 per cent in 2013 across Alberta, bringing the average home sale to $372,300.

The provincial picture differs from the national numbers. CMHC predicted 193,100 units of housing will get built across Canada in 2013 – down around seven per cent both from previous forecasts and 2012’s forecast numbers.

Cho said the new federal mortgage rules introduced in July, which knock five years off the maximum amortization period, will soften demand for housing, but other factors ultimately carry more weight in real estate.

“The rules will certainly have an impact on housing demand, but it isn’t the only factor” he said. “Housing demand is also supported by growth in employment and earnings as well as migration flows and relatively low mortgage rates.”

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