Demand for rental units outstrips supply

The demand for rental apartment units continued to outshine the housing supply in 2019, leading to the third consecutive annual decline in the national vacancy rate to 2.2%, according to the recent figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The national vacancy rate hit its lowest level for all bedroom types since 2002, said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan.

"The national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments declined for a third consecutive year in 2019, as strong rental demand continued to outpace growth in supply. Low vacancy rates in major centres underscore the need for increased rental supply to ensure access to affordable housing," he said.

Rental demand remains elevated in Vancouver and Toronto, with vacancy rates in these markets remaining amongst the lowest in Canada in 2019 at 1.1% and 1.5%, respectively. 

The Montréal Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) vacancy rate reached a 15-year low at 1.5%, driving the national decline. Halifax also reported a dip in its vacancy rate to 1%.

Vacancy rates in most other CMAs remained stable, including the major prairie markets of Calgary (3.9%), Regina (7.8%), and Winnipeg (3.1%).

The drop in vacancy rates resulted in an increase in average rents. A two-bedroom apartment, for instance, witnessed a 3.9% gain in average rent from October 2018 to October 2019.

Toronto reported the highest growth in average rents for a two-bedder unit at 6.1%, followed by Vancouver's 4.9%, Halifax's 3.7%, and Montréal's 3.4%.  The highest rent, however, was recorded in Vancouver at $1.748.

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