OTTAWA - The annual pace of housing starts in Canada soared 21.6 per cent in March compared with February, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s latest report.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts rose to 335,200 units, up from 275,567 in February, the federal housing agency said in a report on Monday.

The increase in housing starts reflected very elevated levels of activity in January and March, said CMHC's chief economist.

“Multi-family SAAR starts rebounded strongly following decline in February, with Toronto and Vancouver registering particularly large gains in this segment,” said Bob Dugan.

CMHC said it uses the trend measure with the monthly standalone seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of housing starts to obtain a complete picture of Canada's housing market.

“Single-detached SAAR starts also contributed to the increase in the overall trend in March, but by a relatively modest amount in comparison to multi-family starts,” Dugan said.

The annual pace of urban starts rose 24.4 per cent in the month to 300,973 as the pace of starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects climbed 33.8 per cent to 222,358 units.

The annual rate of single-detached urban starts rose 3.6 per cent to 78,615.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 34,227 units.

CMHC said the six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates was 273,664 in March, up from 252,636 in February.