CMHC report shows average Vancouver rents are far lower than candidates' claims

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      The average rent for an unoccupied, purpose-built one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver and the suburbs is far below $2,000 per month, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

      According to a report released this morning, a tenant in an occupied one-bedroom purpose-built unit within Vancouver city limits paid $1,326, on average, in October. Vacant one-bedroom units cost $1,442 per month.

      It noted that prospective renters "face higher rents than long-term tenants, with the average rent for vacant units being 11 percent higher than the average rent for occupied units in October 2017".

      Average prices of vacant one-bedroom units were significantly lower in suburbs such as Burnaby ($1,061), New Westminster ($904), North Vancouver ($1,264), and Surrey ($943).

      Occupied one-bedroom units in Burnaby ($1,102) and New Westminster ($989) were actually higher than the unoccupied units, according to the report. The same was true for two-bedroom units in those communities as well as in North Vancouver.

      In Vancouver a two-bedroom occupied unit went for $1,857 per month on average whereas an unoccupied two-bedroom unit cost $2,107 per month on average.

      The cheapest one-bedroom neighbourhood in Vancouver was Marpole at $978 per month on average. Two-bedroom purpose-built units in Marpole had an average monthly rental of $1,248 last month.

      This is far lower than the oft-cited claim by a private-sector company, PadMapper, that the median price for a one-bedroom unit across the region reached $2,020 in September.

      That $2,000 per month figure was often quoted by candidates from various parties in an October Vancouver city council by-election. The repeated mantra that a one-bedroom had surpassed $2,000 per month contributed to a fifth-place finish for Vision Vancouver's Diego Cardona.

      CMHC puts the average rent in Vancouver and its suburbs at $1,297 for a purpose-built apartment unit. That's still up 5.9 percent from a year ago.

      "Low vacancy rates due to migration and employment growth, coupled with climbing prices for entry-level ownership housing, put strong upward pressure on rents," CMHC stated.

      Meanwhile, the vacancy rate for purpose-built apartments in Vancouver's metropolitan area has risen from 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent over the past year, according to CMHC.

      The sharpest increase in the vacancy rate in Vancouver for a one-bedroom purpose-built unit was in downtown Vancouver, which went from 0.4 percent to 1.3 percent over the past year.

      One-bedroom units in the West End/Stanley Park rose from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent and in the English Bay area jumped from 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent over the same period.

      The largest drops in the vacancy rate for one-bedroom purpose-built apartments were in West Side/Kerrisdale and Kitsilano/Point Grey.

      The vacancy rate is also below one percent for condos owned by investors. Here, the average monthly rent was $1,758.

      One factor behind rising rents has been the strength of the local labour market, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.3 percent in Vancouver and its suburbs.

      This has led to "substantial year-over-year increases in net interprovincial migration to the Vancouver CMA," the report noted.

      Census data show that between 2011 and 2016, 59 percent of net new households were tenants, compared to just 32 percent over the five years from 2006 to 2011.

      It's a reflection of sharply higher housing costs in which many tenants cannot afford to buy their first homes.

      According to the report, the average vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartment units in Canadian centres with a population of 10,000 or more decreased from 3.7 percent in October 2016 to 3.0 percent in October 2017.