Winnipeg rental market stable, job-security concerns shrink availability nationally
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This article was published 15/01/2020 (1172 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Winnipeg’s rental market is staying healthy, according to federal data released Wednesday.
That’s despite an increasing struggle for renters in larger cities to find apartments.
“When you look at Winnipeg, the rental market is pretty strong,” said Christian Arkilley, a senior economist with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
The Crown corporation’s annual assessment found Winnipeg’s rental market is in a healthier state than most of the country, with the national vacancy rate plunging to a rate last seen in 2002.
Winnipeg held a stable vacancy rate in 2019, because supply has kept up with growing demand from young adults, seniors and immigrants, Arkilley said.
Rent increases slowed slightly last year, bringing the average monthly rent to $1,070.
University of Winnipeg housing researcher Jino Distasio says the city has “a much more balanced market” than a decade ago, when rents were high and the overall number of apartments was in decline.
“We’re just now starting to recover from a period of dormant activity in the rental-construction market,” he said, attributing this to economic growth driving a boom in apartments being built all across the city.
Distasio hopes that supply and demand continue to rise in tandem; both an oversupply or undersupply of units would likely drive up rents.
“Right now I think we’re in a bit of a sweet spot, overall,” he said.
Winnipeg’s vacancy rate stands at 3.1 per cent overall, with two-bedroom dwellings most in demand. Nationally, just 2.2 per cent of rental units are on the market; it’s the third-consecutive year that number has fallen.
Arkilley said concerns about job security have more Canadians renting than buying homes, reducing the numbers of available units. Vancouver and Toronto residents are among the hardest hit.
In Winnipeg, a quarter of all rental units changed tenants in 2019, a stable rate for both the downtown core and the suburbs. That’s compared to a turnover rate of just 9.5 per cent in Toronto, where renters are holding on to hard-to-find units.
Distasio said he’s curious to see CMHC’s neighbourhood-level data, which will likely help developers decide where to build different types of units, and aide researchers in assessing vacancies in low-income areas.
Roughly 35 per cent of Winnipeg households are rented, Distasio said, a demographic that sees more low-income people exposed to rent hikes.
The more detailed data could also help indicate the impact of short-term rental sites like Airbnb on the availability and price of units. A McGill University study found that in 2018, about 200 of Winnipeg’s 1,900 rental units were being listed on such sites full-time.
Affordability registered as a major theme in last fall’s election, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver, with the three main political parties promising action to make it easier for Canadians to buy a home.
The CMHC conducts its Rental Market Survey each October in census metropolitan areas — big cities and surrounding suburbs that have a large proportion of commuters.
Winnipeg’s area includes communities such as St. Clements, Taché and Rosser. There are more rental vacancies in those areas than the metro average, as is the case in the North End, Assiniboine and Transcona.
There are below-average vacancies in the northeast and northwest corners of the city, St. James and everything south of Fort Rouge.
Distasio was surprised that the most available form of Winnipeg rental is those with three or more bedrooms, at 5.9 per cent vacancy. He figured immigrant families would want those units, because birthrates are generally higher outside North America. However the average monthly price for those units, $1,543, could be too high for those families.
Winnipeg’s rental market has held stable over the past five years, and Arkilley expects it will remain so in 2020.
Regina and Calgary also reported stable vacancy rates.
“The demand for rental units has actually increased in the Prairie region,” said Calgary-based Arkilley, adding the number reflects the reality of more people opting to rent instead of purchasing houses as the economically hard-hit oil patch recovers.
Updated on Wednesday, January 15, 2020 6:23 PM CST: Final version