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British Columbia Vacancy Rates Drop Below 1%

Vancouver Rental Market

VANCOUVER: A tight rental market.


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The average rental apartment vacancy rate in Canada's 35 major centres1 decreased slightly to 2.6 per cent in April 2008, from 2.8 per cent in April 2007, according to the spring Rental Market Survey2 released in June by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“The Canadian economy remains very supportive of strong demand for both ownership and rental housing thanks to solid job creation and healthy income gains,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC's Market Analysis Centre. “High levels of immigration and the increasing gap between the cost of home ownership and renting continue to drive rental demand in 2008. These factors have put downward pressure on vacancy rates over the past year.”

The results of CMHC’s spring survey reveal that the major centres with the lowest vacancy rates in April 2008 were Victoria (0.3 per cent), Kelowna (0.3 per cent), Greater Sudbury (0.7 per cent), Vancouver (0.9 per cent), and Saskatoon (0.9 per cent). A unit is considered vacant if, at the time of the survey, it is physically unoccupied and ready for immediate rental. In other words, a new tenant can sign a lease for a vacant unit and move in immediately. All major centres in British Columbia except for Abbotsford, posted a vacancy rate below one per cent due to rising migration to British Columbia and relatively high home ownership costs that have resulted in increased rental demand.


Provincially, vacancy rates were lowest among the western provinces, especially Manitoba (1.0 per cent), Saskatchewan (1.2 per cent), and British Columbia (1.1 per cent). This is largely due to the migration of workers from Central and Atlantic Canada, who settle in rental housing upon their arrival in the western provinces.

The highest average monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in Canada’s major centres were in Calgary ($1,096), Toronto ($1,075), Vancouver ($1,071), and Edmonton ($1,000). Of all the major centres, these four were the only ones with average rents at or above $1,000.

CMHC’s spring Rental Market Survey found that the average rental apartment availability rate in Canada’s 35 major centres was 4.9 per cent in April 2008 down from 5.4 per cent in April 2007. A rental unit is considered available if the unit is vacant (physically unoccupied and ready for immediate rental), or if the existing tenant has given or received notice to move and a new tenant has not signed a lease. The lowest rates were in Kelowna (1.3 per cent), Vancouver (1.3 per cent) and Winnipeg (1.5 per cent).

British Columbia's Rental Market: Survey Highlights

* Strong demand for rental accommodation coupled with limited rental construction resulted in rents moving higher.

* The average apartment vacancy rate in British Columbia's centres with populations of 10,000 or more people was 1.1 per cent in April 2008, down from 1.2 per cent last April.

* The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in British Columbia was $921 in April 2008.

* Vancouver posted the highest average rent for a two bedroom apartment at $1,071 per month, followed by Victoria at $900.

* Victoria and Kelowna tied for the lowest vacancy rate among the four large urgan centres, at just 0.3 per cent.  Vancouver's vacancy rate was unchanged at 0.9 per cent.

For a full analysis of BC's rental market, broken down by major centre and type of rental property, visit the CHMC Rental Market Report: British Columbia Survey Highlights.

1 Major centres are based on Statistics Canada Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) with the exception of the Ottawa – Gatineau CMA which is treated as two centres for Rental Market Survey purposes and Charlottetown which is a Census Agglomeration (CA).

2 CMHC’s Rental Market Survey is conducted twice a year in April and October, to provide vacancy, availability and rent information on privately initiated structures in all centres over 10,000 population across Canada. Reports are released in June and December.

The spring survey covers apartment and row structures containing at least three rental units, and unlike the fall survey does not report information on:

Smaller geographic zones within centres
Secondary rental market (rented condominium apartments, single detached, semi-detached, duplexes or accessory apartments).

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