New figures released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) show apartment vacancy rates are falling in New Brunswick.
Across the province, the vacancy rate has decreased from 3.2% to 2.6%, with five-of-seven cities reporting declines. That number is above the national average, which according to CMHC’s survey indicates fell from 2.4% in Oct. 2018 to 2.2% in Oct. 2019.
Of the three largest cities in New Brunswick, Fredericton posted the largest decline in available units and now holds the lowest vacancy rate in the province after falling from 2.1% to 1.4% in that same time frame, according to the CMHC.
The Moncton census metropolitan area (CMA) has the third lowest vacancy rate in New Brunswick after it’s percentage dropped from 2.7% to 2.2%. In Saint John’s CMA, the vacancy rates dropped from 3.7% to 3.3%.
Edmundston and Campbellton are the only two of seven cities that reported increases in vacancy, based on CMHC numbers.
The cost of rent has increased, with the average across the province growing from $765 to $805.
While the decline in vacancy can mean good news for the economy, it’s putting a strain on many, including front-line workers and advocates who try to help people find affordable options.
“Lower vacancy rates tend to mean you can command higher monthly rents and that’s, if you are a landlord or developer, that’s good news,” says Randy Hatfield, the executive director of the Saint John Human Development Council. “If you’re sitting in a chair that requires affordable housing, safe, and warm, and affordable, then you know, it’s not good news.”
Charles Léger, a Moncton city councillor representing Ward 2, says part of the issue comes from short-term rentals, such as Airbnb rentals.
“Over the last two years, we’ve certainly seen a rise in short term rentals.”
Moncton’s mayor has another suggestion.
“I would call on our provincial government to eliminate the double taxation,” Mayor Dawn Arnold tells Global News in an interview.
Arnold says the city has awarded 16 building permits.
“We know that equates to about 727 new units coming onto the market in the new year.”
The Department of Finance and Treasury Board says the elimination of “provincial property tax on non-owner-occupied residential properties” will be phased out over “a period of years” that will cost more than 90-million dollars.
Lisa Ryan, the community development coordinator with the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee.
“Having caps on market rent is a great notion; other municipalities have done that,” she says. “They’ve also included that there needs to be percentages of units dedicated as affordable.”
But that would require provincial legislation to be changed.
Global news has reached out to the province to ask if that will be considered, but no one was available for immediate comment.