No relief for renters: Halifax has record high average rents, low vacancy rates
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Halifax’s desperate rental situation shows no sign of easing.
The latest Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Rent Report using survey data from October 2022 shows that the record-low vacancy rate of 1 percent lives on (one of the lowest in the country) and the vacancy rate for low-income earners is even worse at 0.6 percent. Only three percent of HRM units can accommodate people making less than $28,000 a year.
“This means that low-income tenants have fewer housing options. That aligns with what we see every day in the clinic,” said Katie Brousseau, community lawyer at Dalhousie Legal Aid, in a statement posted to Twitter.
A chart showing the percentage of rental units in Halifax by income. -CMHC
“We know that there has been an increase in the number of applications for apartment rentals submitted by tenants, and this is mainly because tenants want to take every opportunity to stay at home.”
And a new record: In Halifax, average rents rose by 8.9 percent. That’s the highest rent increase in a single year for this city and four times the average historical growth rate.
In particular, the average two-bedroom units in Halifax saw the highest increase of 9.3 percent with an average rent of $1,449.
“There is no relief for renters,” said CMHC market analyst Kelvin Ndoro, who compiled the Halifax numbers. “That’s right, because the vacancy rate remains unchanged and the average rent increase is at an all-time high.”
A chart showing average rents within the same survey sample. – Supplied by CMHC
The turnover rate fell to its lowest level in five years, showing that tenants are reluctant to move.
The largest increase in median rent was in Dartmouth North (12.7 percent), an area that had the city’s lowest total rent at $1,040.
Especially hard for low-income renters
As rents rise, there’s even stiffer competition for affordable housing, Brousseau said.
“One thing that is clear from this report is that we need to see focused efforts at all levels of government to rapidly increase the number of affordable rental units in both private and public housing,” Brousseau said in the statement. “The rising cost of living is affecting most households, but it’s low-income households that are feeling the most pressure.”
While Halifax has launched a slew of new builds, the completion rate isn’t following suit. Last year, the number of rental apartments rose by 1,348, the lowest number of annual rental completions since 2016.
“When people look at these numbers, especially for Halifax, and see doom and gloom, but I don’t think that’s how we should see it,” Ndoro said. “The low vacancy rate shows us that there is more demand than supply, but that doesn’t mean we’re adding enough units. Halifax leads the nation in new home construction per capita, but the completion rate is obviously lower.”