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Low vacancy rates, rising prices squeeze Greater Victorians out of appropriate residential rentals

National 2021 rental report gives insight into Capital Region demand, affordability
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s recently released 2021 rental market report shows Greater Victoria aligned with the national rent price hike, with both up 3.1 per cent from 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)

Greater Victoria’s 2021 rental market saw a return to greater demand despite still-rising costs and vacancy rates of certain housing types putting a squeeze on the demographics that need them.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s recently released 2021 rental market report shows the Capital Region aligned with the national rent price hike, with both up 3.1 per cent over 2020.

The CMHC classifies affordable units as ones where a household spends no more than 30 per cent of its monthly gross income on rent. Using that standard, Greater Victoria households making $42,000 were about $350 shy per month of being able to afford the average bachelor unit here in 2021. Those making less than $64,000 a year have to pay about $400 more than 30 per cent of their monthly income to afford a vacant two-bedroom.

Based on hourly wages, income earners in the average Greater Victoria two-bedroom household had to work 12 hours on top of their full-time schedule to keep the amount they paid for rent at the 30-per-cent of income mark.

Meanwhile, rental vacancy rates in the Capital Region declined from 2.1 per cent to one per cent last year.

Young families and others seeking two-bedroom rentals faced an extremely small pool of units suitable for them, as affordable two-bedroom spaces had a 0.2 per cent vacancy rate. Even families with combined incomes around $100,000 had to deal with a tight supply for what would work for them, as local three-bedrooms were only 0.6 per cent vacant.

Apartments going for under $1,400 a month, and units built after 2018, both posted a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate last year.

READ: National rental price up 3% from last year, while vacancy rates hold steady: CMHC

Tenant turnover increased nationally in 2021, but people are still staying in their units for longer than they did pre-pandemic. That’s also the case in the Capital Region, where rents for vacant spots and units built after 2018 were $300 to $400 more expensive than occupied units.

Students and young workers returning to Greater Victoria last year caused the vacancy rate of bachelor flats costing $1,400 or more to take the region’s sharpest one-year decline, going from about nine per cent to 3.4, the report stated. It’s also getting harder for students to afford living near the university and colleges, with Saanich seeing the region’s highest average rent hike of 5.6 per cent.

The combination of Canadians moving to B.C. more than any other province, Greater Victoria’s return to in-person post-secondary classes, its economic recovery and the addition of about 5,600 jobs in 2021 were all indicators that more people will flock to the region in the near future.

That comes as purpose-built apartment growth declined by about 50 per cent last year. New supply was concentrated on the West Shore, in Saanich and Victoria’s northeast.

READ: Victoria wants B.C. to regulate rent increases between tenancies

READ: B.C. Budget: Renter rebate off the table, but $600 rent supplements coming for vulnerable groups Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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