Builders are bringing some relief to Canada’s tight housing market, with year-end data showing the strongest run of new construction since the 1970s.

Builders began work on 271,198 homes last year, the highest since 1976 and second most in records back to 1955, according to data released on Tuesday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Work was completed on 222,670 units, the highest since 1979.

The numbers show developers are seeking to take advantage of a real estate market that’s seen benchmark home prices rise by nearly 30 per cent over the past year amid dwindling supply, with the fewest existing houses for sale in at least a quarter century.

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“As these starts are completed in the quarters ahead, that should bring some supply relief to the extremely tight housing market,” Andrew Grantham, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a report to investors.

New construction of single-detached and multiple-unit homes were both up last year. Builders began work on 82,116 single-detached homes in 2021, up from 59,954 in 2020 and the highest since 2012. Still, construction of the key segment remains below historical averages. 

Starts of multiple-unit homes hit 189,082 units in 2021, a record.

The year did end on a slowdown. Builders started work on an annualized 236,106 units last month, which was down 22 per cent from 303,813 units in November.