Rents continue to climb as vacancy rate drops to ‘near-historic low’

file photo Marissa Tiel

Despite adding a load of new purpose-built rentals – many of them in Coquitlam – rents in Metro Vancouver continued to inflate last year.

The average rent on a two-bedroom rental in Vancouver was $2,002 last year – $740 above the national average and more than $200 higher than Toronto, according to the recently published Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation annual rental market report.

But while rents rose 5.7 percent, vacancy rates in the purpose-built rental market dropped from 1.2 to 0.9 percent. The national vacancy rate is 1.9 percent. A healthy vacancy rate is generally considered to be around three percent.

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Asking rents for vacant units were 43 percent higher than for occupied units.

“This represents a strong disincentive to moving for existing tenants, resulting in lower turnover,” according to the report.

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The dip in vacancy rates coincided with a record infusion of new units as the region added a total of 3,805 new rentals. Those rentals were concentrated in four municipalities, with Vancouver, Coquitlam, and the City and District of North Vancouver combining for 87 percent of that growth.

Coquitlam was responsible for 843 of those new units.

Discussing the housing crisis in 2022, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart listed both the accomplishments of city and the limitations of city government.

“We’re generating more rental housing and more affordable rental housing and more below-market rental housing than any other community, per capita,” he said.

However, the city faces numerous pressures, Stewart said, referring to the fact that B.C.’s net migration reached a record of 100,797 in 2021.

“The province built enough housing for two-thirds of them. That didn’t help, obviously,” Stewart said.

The average rent charged for a new two-bedroom apartment was $2,823 – $42 lower than the average rent on a vacant two-bedroom apartment.

“Rental demand is such that owners of existing units can, in some cases, seek rents that are equal to those for new units,” the report stated.

‘Too low to report’

Across the country, the rental units that were affordable for low-income earners was either in single digits or “too low to report,” according to CMHC.

“This is especially true in Ontario and British Columbia,” the report added.

Fewer than one-third of market purpose-built rental units are affordable for households that take home less than $55,000 a year. Approximately one in 200 units are affordable for renters with the lowest 20 percent of incomes.

The average rent on a two-bedroom condo was $2,504 last year. In the condo market, the vacancy rate was 2.2 percent.

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