Tightest rental market since 2001
A surge in demand pushed Canada's rental market to its tightest level in two decades last year, with the vacancy rate in purpose-built apartments dipping below two per cent and rent for new tenants going up by 18 per cent.
Those were some of the main takeaways from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's annual report on the state of Canada's rental market.
The figures cited above were for purpose-built rental apartments, so they don't include what's happening in condos, or in apartments built out of occupied family homes.
For purpose-built rentals, the national vacancy rate fell to 1.9 per cent last year, its lowest level since 2001.
Booming demand for apartments pushed up the price to get one, too, with the average rent hitting $1,258 a month. That was up by 5.6 per cent from the previous year's level, and roughly twice the annual average seen for the past 30 years.
But rent didn't go up at the same pace for every unit.
Apartments where there was a change in tenants saw the rent go up by 18.9 per cent. Those where there was no change in tenancy saw rents go up by only 2.9 per cent, on average. "This reflects the fact that, once a tenant vacates a unit, landlords are generally free to increase asking rents to current market levels," the CMHC said.
That gap was even more stark in two of Canada's biggest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, where average rents for a unit that saw a tenant change went up by 29 and 24 per cent, respectively.
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Association, has spent more than a decade as a watchdog for the rental market in Toronto. He says the situation is as dire as he's ever seen, with a surge in so-called "renovictions," where landlords are eager to take advantage of higher market rents by evicting tenants and raising rents to someone new
"There's an incentive for them to try to illegally evict people and raise the rent," he told CBC News in an interview. He says he hears stories every day of people staying in unsuitable housing situations because of desperation. "They're afraid that if they get kicked out of their current place for a new one, rent's going to be like $1,000 higher."
Toronto tenant advocate says market is dire
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association, says the situation in Toronto's rental market is the worst he's ever seen.
Things aren't much better across the country in Vancouver, either. The vacancy rate fell to just 0.9 per cent, with the average price for a two-bedroom hitting $2,002 a month. That's up by 5.7 per cent from last year, but it's up by 24 per cent among units that have seen a tenancy change.
Some of those in the lower mainland's rental market fear the system is irreparably broken.
Vinny Cid was working and living in Victoria, but when his job allowed him to work remotely in 2021, he made the decision to move home with his parents.
He, his sibling and his two parents share a rental home in Richmond, B.C. for $2,800 a month which suits their needs, but he says they are only able to get that because his parents have lived in the unit since 2016.
"The rental situation has devolved quickly," he told CBC News in an interview Thursday. "I check rental listings almost daily, and something similar today would cost $4,000 or more."
"It's depressing to see how prices have spiraled out of control very quickly," he said.
While his situation works for him for now, should his employment or needs change, he suspects he would have to leave the province, or even the country. And he says he worries for those who don't have the income and family support he has.
"Everybody is being told to either improvise or get pushed out," he said. "In terms of outlook, it doesn't look good."
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