Apartment vacancy rate edges lower: survey

Thu Jun 5, 2008 4:12pm EDT
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By Lionel Perron

TORONTO (Reuters) - Apartment vacancies in Canada's 35 largest cities edged lower in April, according to a survey released on Thursday by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

The national average fell slightly to 2.6 percent from 2.8 percent in 2007. But the regional breakdown tells a different story. It is much harder to find an apartment in Western Canadian provinces than elsewhere in the country.

In Manitoba, the vacancy rate stands at 1 percent, it's slightly higher in British Columbia at 1.1 percent, and in Saskatchewan, where it is 1.2 percent, CMHC reported.

"Saskatchewan used to lose people to Alberta, now people are moving back because of the jobs available in agriculture and commodities. I expect the vacancy rate to drop below 1 percent in Saskatchewan sooner rather than later," said Sebastien Lavoie, an economist at Laurentian Bank Securities.

At the other end of the spectrum, Windsor, Ontario, battered by several rounds of job cuts in the auto industry, has a vacancy rate of 13.2 percent, by far the highest in the country, CMHC said.

Moncton, New Brunswick, has the second highest rate at 5.5 percent, followed by Hamilton, Ontario, at 4.7 percent.

The survey said the rental pattern of lower vacancies in the West was "largely due to to the migration of workers from Central and Atlantic Canada, who settle in rental housing upon their arrival in Western provinces."

Calgary, the heart of Alberta's oil industry remains the most expensive city in which to rent. The average monthly cost of a two-bedroom apartment there is C$1,096 ($1.077), followed by Toronto at C$1,075 and Vancouver at C$1071.

The cheapest rentals for a two-bedroom apartment were in the Quebec regions of Saguenay and Trois-Rivieres, at C$497 and C$501 respectively. The areas have been hard-hit by waves of job cuts in the aluminum and pulp and paper industries.

(Reporting by Lionel Perron, editing by Rob Wilson)