09/11/2012 05:05 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

Condo boom buoys housing starts

New home construction ticked higher in August, strengthened by condominium construction in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada's national housing agency said Tuesday.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the annual pace for new housing units was at 224,900 in August, up from 208,000 the previous month.

The moving average trended to 222,900 units per month, CMHC said.

"The increase in housing starts in August was the result of a few, large, multi-unit projects in the Greater Toronto area," CMHC's deputy chief economist Mathieu Laberge said. "This increase is primarily a reflection of the high level of pre-sales in some of these large multi-unit projects in late 2010 and early 2011."

Starts were also higher in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia. But those gains were only because of lower activity in July, not an increasing trend for August, CMHC said.

" While condo sales are cooling, the pipeline of condo projects has enough momentum to keep an upward bias upon new construction volumes at least for now," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a note following the release of the data.

Across the country, single family home construction remained relatively unchanged in August at 64,300 units, while multiple urban starts increased by 15.5 per cent to 141,600 units.

Regionally, starts increased by 47.5 per cent in Atlantic Canada, by 20.4 per cent in Ontario, by 18.2 per cent in British Columbia and by 1.3 per cent in the Prairies. Urban starts decreased by 9.8 per cent in Québec.

The CMHC estimates rural starts came in at 19,000 units during the month.