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Saanich lands undesirable spot on national vacancy rate list

Municipality’s rate dropped most among Canada’s 150 largest cities and towns, 2011 to 2021
Two reports show vacancies are down while rental rates are rising around the region. Saanich’s vacancy rate dropped by more than half, from nine to four per cent, between 2011 and 2021, according to one report. Another shows that Greater Victoria rents are among the highest in the country. (Black Press Media file photo)

A new report released Wednesday shows Saanich recorded the highest drop in vacancy rates among Canada’s 150 largest municipalities over a recent 10-year period, with Langford not far behind.

Real estate news and analysis website Point2Homes reported that Saanich’s share of unoccupied dwellings dropped 53 per cent between 2011 and 2021. That translates to a drop in the real vacancy rate from nine to four per cent in that time frame, when the municipality’s population rose by 7.3 per cent.

No other municipality among the surveyed cities recorded a bigger drop, but Langford was close, sitting at 146th with a drop of 44 per cent (from eight per cent to five per cent), while its population rose by 59.4 per cent – third most on the list – during the same period.

One other local municipality was large enough to be on the list, the city of Victoria, where the vacancy rate dropped 27 per cent, from 10 to seven per cent in real terms, while its population rose by 14.8 per cent.

The findings confirm what many established and more recent residents in Greater Victoria know firsthand: it has become increasingly difficult to find housing, never mind housing that is affordable.

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

The March 2022 rental report from points in the same direction. Data taken from properties listed on their site in February pegs the average monthly rent in Greater Victoria for a one-bedroom suite at $1,661, the 14th higher price among 35 Canadian communities compared. The average rent for a two-bedroom is $2,667 – third highest in that category.

Those averages have risen over the previous month by 7.8 per cent for a one-bedroom and 5.3 per cent for a two-bedroom.

Vancouver topped the national list for average monthly rent in February at $2,239 for a one-bedroom and $3,050 for a two-bedroom.

Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research and Consulting which produced the report, said the overall rental market in Canada continues to trend upward in the post-vaccine pandemic period.

“British Columbia – specifically Vancouver – and downtown Toronto are leading the market recovery, pushing rents up nationally.”

These reports follow publication of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation 2021 rental report, which confirms rising rents are putting a squeeze on individuals who need the most help.

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

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 annually were about $350 shy per month of being able to afford the median-priced bachelor unit here in 2021. Households with a total income of around $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 overall declined from 2.1 per cent to one per cent last year.

- with files from Jake Romphf

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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