Vancouver-area housing starts jumped dramatically in February, reaching the highest monthly levels in more than two decades, according to Canada's national housing agency.

A report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the seasonally-adjusted annual rate for housing starts in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area rose last month to 24,244 units, up from 20,825 in January.

"The actual monthly number of housing starts in the Vancouver CMA was the highest recorded over the past 25 years," said market analyst Richard Sam, in a statement.

Actual starts in the Vancouver area were 3024 in February 2016, nearly three times the level a year ago.

Multi-family units made up the bulk of the year-to-year increase.

Sam cited the decline in the inventory of new homes in the region for the rise, as well as the brisk resale market for the strong numbers.

 As a result, developers have "ramped up housing starts of single-detached and multiple-family homes this month," he said.

Meanwhile, housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA rose to 1,406 units in February, up from 1,208 units in January, due to an increase in the construction of single-detached and apartment units, CMHC said.

National starts on the rise

Nationally, the CMHC report showed that the pace of housing starts picked up in February, boosted by a jump in multiple-unit homes such as condominiums, apartments and townhouses.

CMHC says the seasonally adjusted annual rate for housing starts in February increased to 212,594 units, up from 165,071 in January.

Economists had expected an annual pace of 180,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

The increase came as multiple-unit urban starts increased by 46 per cent to 138,774 units, while single-detached urban starts increased by 6.1 per cent to 61,457 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12,363.

Outside B.C., the pace of urban starts in February also rose in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada while they decreased in the Prairies

With files from the Canadian Press