It’s now harder to find an apartment in Halifax than it is in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, according to a new study.
In its 2019 fall rental market survey, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found that the vacancy rate has dropped to a new low of one per cent.
The vacancy rate in Montreal and the Greater Toronto Area in 2019 was 1.5 per cent, while it was 1.1 per cent in Vancouver.
In 2018, Halifax’s apartment vacancy rate was 1.6 per cent.
Lisa Roberts, the NDP MLA for Halifax Needham, says the numbers prove there needs to be an urgent response from government.
“While the numbers are surprising they’re not maybe as surprising to me as they are to some people,” she said. “We’ve been seeing this situation developing, and yet all of the public money that we have spent in the last four years, maybe longer, has not gone to actually preventing the situation getting this critical.”
Jill MacLellan with HRM Planning & Development says a healthy vacancy rate in a city is generally 3-5 per cent, so to her Halifax’s one per cent vacancy rate is “very concerning.”
“Housing is an important issue no matter what size city you are,” said MacLellan. “It’s something that everyone needs to be paying attention to whether you’re a big city or small city or even a town. It’s something that’s very important to look at.”
The CMHC numbers represent privately-owned apartments in buildings with three or more units.
With the decreased vacancy rate, average rent increased 3.8 per cent to $1,113.
Here’s a breakdown of the average rent prices for the primary rental market by bedroom type:
Due to higher demand, the vacancy rate continues to drop, despite consistent growth in rental supply, according to the report.
“In light of this growing demand, there are currently over 4,000 rental units under construction in the Halifax CMA, which is the highest level at any point in time,” the report states.
The report notes that key areas of growth include the Halifax Peninsula, Mainland North and Hammonds Plains.
MacLellan says Planning & Development is looking at at incentives for affordable housing, such as waiving construction-related permitting costs for affordable housing developments.
“We’re also looking at how we’re going to spend the density-bonusing money from affordable housing through the Centre Plan, and we’re also looking at how we can use our surplus land to help leverage more affordable housing as well,” she added.
Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter was not made available for an interview, but in a statement pointed to the province’s three-year Action Plan for housing program investments.
“The plan will help to advance Nova Scotia’s objectives and priorities for affordable housing, help us maintain existing housing programs and, most importantly, allow us to better serve Nova Scotians who are in need of housing,” Porter stated.
Nationally, the CMHC says rental apartment vacancy hit their lowest level since 2002, with this being the third consecutive year of declines. The federal housing agency says average rents increased by 3.9 per cent for a two-bedroom rental apartment, the fastest rate of same-sample rent growth since 2001.
The CMHC figures were found through surveys conducted in October 2019.