Strong demand for commercial developments in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta drove the value of building permits issued to contractors up by almost 21 per cent in July from June, Statistics Canada reported.

Contractors took out permits worth $8 billion in July. Non-residential permits saw the biggest gains, rising in value by 45.5 per cent to $3.9 billion. This sector includes commercial, industrial and institutional properties, with commercial buildings accounting for most of the monthly increase.

Municipalities issued $2.6 billion worth of commercial building permits in July, an increase of almost 90 per cent over June, Statistics Canada said. Industrial permits went up in value by almost 12 per cent to $505 million, while the total value of institutional permits issued decreased by 6.5 per cent to $791 million.

The residential sector recovered from an almost 13 per cent decline in value of permits in June to post an increase of 4.1 per cent to $4.1 billion.

Ontario, Quebec and Alberta accounted for most of the increases in both residential and non-residential permits.

In the residential sector, the number of multi-family dwellings authorized to be built fell 3.0 per cent in July to 11,193 units while the number of single-family dwellings increased 3.7 per cent to 6,311 units.

The value of building permits rose 4.1 per cent in July to $2.2 billion for single-family homes and 4.2 per cent to $1.9 billion for multi-family dwellings. Recently a Genworth Canada report predicted the condo market would remain healthy, despite a slight drop in sales.

The total value of permits was down in half of Canada's 34 census metropolitan areas, with Toronto, Calgary and Montreal seeing the biggest gains and Vancouver, Hamilton and London registering the largest decreases.