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Data points: B.C. building permits recover to 12-month average in March

A sharp monthly increase still didn't correct an overall downward trend in permit volumes
Building permit volumes in March 2023 were close to B.C.'s 12-month average

The total value of B.C. building permits bounced back in March.

After trending lower over the previous four months, the seasonally adjusted volume of building permits increased by 36.6 per cent in March to $2.1 billion when compared to February, moving volume closer to the 12-month average of slightly above $2 billion.

The increase was strongest for non-residential permits, which increased 48.2 per cent. Total residential permit volumes were also strong, up 30.9 per cent in March. Despite this bump in the dollar value of permits issued, the overall trend is still tracking lower, with the 12-month trailing average declining again for the second straight month.

On the non-residential side, the gains were entirely seen in total commercial permit volumes, which increased 79.7 per cent over the previous month to $557 million. Industrial permit volumes and government permit volumes issued in March remain relatively unchanged when compared to February. Industrial permits came in at $45 million and government permits at $156 million.

The increase in residential permit volumes was entirely in the multi-family space. From February to March, the dollar value of multi-family permit volumes increased by 44.9 per cent to $1.1 billion. While this breaks the four-month streak of lower permit volumes, this is still three per cent lower than the 12-month average.

On the other hand, the dollar value of single-family home permits continued the slide, down 7.1 per cent month to month. This follows eight straight months of permit volume values trending lower, which reflects the more immediate impacts of the downturn in underlying housing market conditions.

Among the seven listed metro areas in B.C., four saw a higher dollar value in permit volumes issued in March. Those four were Vancouver (up 68.7 per cent), Nanaimo (up 255.1 per cent), Kamloops (up 105.2 per cent) and Kelowna (up 20 per cent). The three that saw a decrease were Chilliwack (down 34.8 per cent), Victoria (down 22.7 per cent) and Abbotsford-Mission (down 8.1 per cent). 

Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1.