After years of low inventory in the city’s rental market, Kingston no longer has one of the lowest vacancy rates in Ontario.
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) 2020 Rental Report, Kingston’s vacancy rate jumped to 3.2 per cent in 2020, and now matches the provincial average.
CMHC says the fairly drastic change in the 2020 rate is a reflection of the increase in housing supply.
“For the first time since 2007, the overall vacancy rate surpassed 3.0%, providing renters with more options,” the CMHC report said.
In 2018, the city’s vacancy rate hit a record low of 0.6 per cent, which was the lowest in the province at the time. The rate improved slightly in 2019 to 1.9 per cent, but only truly evened out last year.
Nevertheless, the housing corporation noted that Kingston rent prices remain high, and that the city will have to continue the development of more rental properties.
Average rent prices went up 3 per cent from 2019 to $1,282 in 2020, the report said.
Although this change comes the same year as the pandemic, CMHC does not believe the vacancy rate was affected by fewer students returning to Kingston, because most students signed leases before the full impact of the pandemic was realized.
Mayor Bryan Paterson is counting this as a win for city housing priorities.
“We’ve introduced a number of innovative policies and last year we saw a record amount of new housing construction,” Paterson says.
Some of those policies came from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, which was presented in March last year. The city said someone the recommendations from the task force have been helping shape the municipal response to housing over the last year.
The task force produced dozens of recommendations to address the problem, including:
- more streamlining of the development applications process to reduce unexpected costs and delays
- incentives to fast-track affordable housing projects for construction such as delaying the need for technical studies and peer reviews
- allowing residential growth in commercial spaces such as under-utilized shopping malls
- promoting innovative ideas such as tiny homes, micro-units, co-living, and wood-frame or modular construction
- harmonize outdated municipal zoning bylaws
- further assisting community organizations in accessing the funds and land, and developing the expertise necessary for not-for-profit housing projects.
In 2020, the city issued more than 1,400 building permits for residential units, up from 1,061 in 2019. Many of these builds are expected to be done in 2021, which will further alleviate the rental market.
“However, the demand for housing remains high in Kingston, so there is still more work to do to maintain a healthy vacancy rate in the long-term.”
— With files from Global News’ Bill Hutchins