P.E.I. shatters 1st-quarter record for housing starts

Winter is typically a slow time for housing starts, but this winter was an exception. (Ken Linton/CBC - image credit)
Winter is typically a slow time for housing starts, but this winter was an exception. (Ken Linton/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I. had its best first quarter ever for housing starts this year, and the province's housing minister is wondering why opposition parties have had no questions for him about it.

The 394 housing starts in the first three months of 2024 is more than twice as many than any first quarter has shown since 1979. The previous record was set in 1978, with 237.

Statistics Canada released the numbers on April 16. In the legislature on Tuesday, Housing Minister Rob Lantz chastised opposition parties for not wanting to talk about it.

"More than two weeks ago, some people on the other side talked about April 16th as a significant date [on which] we may know where we're trending in terms of housing starts in this province," said Lantz.

"In fact, we got very good news a week ago. Nobody has asked me a question about it. It's funny; when there's good news, no one wants to know on that side."

Housing Minister Rob Lantz released a new housing strategy in February. (Province of P.E.I.)

The winter months are typically a slow time for housing starts, with contractors less likely to start digging given the ground is frozen. But the number of housing starts this winter was strong by any measure.

Since 2018, the average starts in any quarter on P.E.I. have been 318. That puts this winter's number about 24 per cent above average — spring, summer and fall included.

The province also made progress on the government's aim to see fewer single-family homes built, through projects creating more homes while taking up less land. It was the best quarter for apartment starts on record, with 287 units begun.

Prince Edward Island's housing situation has been described as being in a crisis since 2019. The construction industry has not been able to keep up with rapid population growth, growth which has sometimes been as high as four per cent per year.

In February, the P.E.I. government released a five-year housing strategy. It set a target of building 2,000 homes a year. The province has reached that mark only once, in 1973.