Business in Vancouver

Canada’s Vancouver apartment vacancy shrinks; Surrey sees most dramatic drop

Meanwhile, the average rent jumped 6.4% across the region over the past year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 4:20pm

By Emma Crawford Hampel 

Strong employment and increasing home prices are driving rental demand across Metro Vancouver in Canada, and the region’s notoriously low apartment vacancy rate diminished even further over the past year.

The vacancy rate across the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) slipped from 0.8 per cent in October 2015 to 0.7 per cent a year later, according to a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report released November 28.

“Strong demand for rental accommodation in [the Vancouver CMA] outpaced additions to supply, pushing rents higher and vacancies lower for purpose-build and condo rental apartments,” said CMHC principal of market analysis Robyn Adamache.

The report said a strong job market is driving rental demand, particularly for younger demographics that tend to start off as renters.

“The Vancouver CMA continues to lead employment growth nationally, at a pace of 5.8 per cent year-over-year as of September 2016 [according to Statistics Canada data],” the CMHC said in a report. “This equates to more than 70,000 additional jobs created, compared with the same period last year.”

Solid employment in the region is also driving demand by increasing migration to the province, according to the report.

“The Vancouver CMA added an estimated 15,773 new households between 2015 and 2016,” the CMHC said. “This population-based demand is one of the main factors contributing to low vacancy rates.”

Vacancy rates remain a regional story

The decrease wasn’t coming from within the City of Vancouver itself, however, as vacancy actually increased slightly in Vancouver alone. In the Downtown/West End area, the rate increased from 0.5 per cent to 0.6 per cent. In the rest of the city, the rate grew from 0.6 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

The region’s tightening vacancy rate was driven by declining availability in the suburbs, and the most drastic drop was found in Surrey. Last October, that city had an apartment vacancy rate of 1.9 per cent; this year, the rate plunged to 0.4 per cent. Vacancy also fell in Burnaby (October 2015: 1.2 per cent, October 2016: 0.8 per cent) and New Westminster (October 2015: 0.9 per cent, October 2016: 0.4per cent.

Average rent jumps across the region

The average rent in the Vancouver CMA increased from C$1,144 (US$852) in October last year to C$1,223 (US$911) this year – an increase of 6.4 per cent. Rent increased across all regions, with Vancouver’s West End/Downtown area seeing a jump from C$1,350 (US$1005.60) to C$1,461 (US$1,088). In the rest of Vancouver, average rent increased from C$1,233 (US$918.44) to C$1,324 (US$986.24). Rent also increased in Burnaby (October 2015: C$1,031 (US$767.80), October 2016: C$1,105 (US$823)) and New Westminster (October 2015: C$933 (US$695), October 2016: C$993 (US$739.70)).