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Metro Vancouver vacancy rates surge to highest level since 1999, rents still rise

Last Updated Jan 28, 2021 at 6:35 pm PDT


CMHC's annual market rental survey indicates it's more expensive to rent here now, despite exodus from the core

English Bay and Kitsilano saw rent decreases, but that was not the case across the region

Economist says while rents did rise, they haven't gone up at the same levels as in recent years

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Metro Vancouver hasn’t seen this level of vacancy for rental units in 20 years, but it doesn’t seem to be improving affordability.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has released its latest annual market rental survey, which indicates it’s actually more expensive to rent here now, despite an exodus from the core during the pandemic.

Related story: Landlords in B.C. feel hit as fewer students rent during COVID-19 pandemic

According to the national housing agency, 2.6 per cent of units sat empty in 2020, the most since 1999. But the price of rent actually rose by two per cent in Metro Vancouver, to an average of $1,508 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

However, price increases were not across the board, points out Eric Bond, an economist with the national housing agency.

“In English Bay, we did see rents decrease 2.4 per cent. In Kitsilano, it was a 1.3 per cent decline. That was not the case for the region as a whole,” Bond said.

The part of our region where vacancy was most pronounced was UBC, where a remarkable 13 per cent of units were empty at the time the survey was carried out.

Related story: CMHC: Rental vacancies, prices edged up as COVID-19 spread across Canada

Economist Tom Davidoff with UBC’s Sauder School of Business says while rents did rise, they didn’t go up at the same levels we’ve seen in recent years. And there’s still value to that.

“I don’t think you need to have dismay about the new supply not leading to big rent declines,” Davidoff said. “If we hold steady with rents nominally as the economy grows, you do get improved affordability that way, so slowing the rate of growth is very important.”

CMHC points out that migration is responsible for the majority of population growth in our region and this vacancy rate increase may be temporary, considering that the federal government plans to increase immigration levels in the coming years once we’re through the pandemic.