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Photo: James Bombales

Though vacancy rates for purpose-built apartments across Canada remained stable in spring 2015, metro areas in Ontario and British Columbia experienced tighter conditions. In the spring Rental Market Survey released Monday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the average vacancy rate for the 35 largest census metropolitan areas in Canada was 2.9 per cent in April 2015. In April 2014, it was 2.7 per cent, a year-over-year difference the CMHC says is not “statistically significant.”

The city with the lowest vacancy rate may come as a surprise. The report, which covers apartment and row structures containing at least three rental units, pinpointed Guelph, Ontario as having the lowest vacancy rate at 0.7 per cent, down from 1.7 per cent the year before. It was followed by Victoria, British Columbia at 1.2 per cent and Vancouver at 1.4 per cent.

“In Ontario, improving employment conditions for young adults aged 15 to 24, a key source of rental demand, and a stable supply of rental units placed downward pressure on vacancy rates, while increased immigration to British Columbia, another key source of rental demand, more-than-offset an increase in the province’s rental market supply,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre.

The Ontario city that saw the largest year-over-year increase was Thunder Bay, while London, Oshawa and Peterborough saw incremental increases in the vacancy rate. Here’s a closer look at all of the Ontario cities evaluated by CMHC:

Census Metropolitan Area Apr-14 Vacancy rate Apr-15 Vacancy rate
Barrie 2.1% 1.7%
Brantford 4.4% 1.8%
Greater Sudbury/Grand Sudbury 5.0% 4.6%
Guelph 1.7% 0.6%
Hamilton 3.9% 1.8%
Kingston 3.4% 2.8%
Kitchener­-Waterloo-Cambridge 3.6% 2.9%
London 3.6% 3.8%
St. Catharines­-Niagara 3.8% 3.1%
Oshawa 1.6% 1.7%
Ottawa-­Gatineau (ON part) 3.2% 2.8%
Peterborough 3.7% 4.0%
Thunder Bay 2.4% 4.7%
Toronto 1.9% 1.8%
Windsor 5.0% 4.9%

In British Columbia, Kelowna was the only CMA to recorded an increase in the vacancy rate:

Census Metropolitan Area Apr-14 Vacancy rate Apr-15 Vacancy rate
Abbotsford­-Mission 3.7% 3.6%
Kelowna 1.5% 1.9%
Vancouver 1.8% 1.4%
Victoria 2.7% 1.2%

The tighter conditions in Ontario and BC were offset by rising rates in the Prairies as well as some of the major cities in Quebec:

Census Metropolitan Area Apr-14 Vacancy rate Apr-15 Vacancy rate
Winnipeg, MB 2.0% 2.3%
Regina, SK 2.5% 4.8%
Saskatoon, SK 3.0% 4.6%
Calgary, AB 1.4% 3.2%
Edmonton, AB 1.4% 2.4%
Montréal, QC 2.7% 3.3%
Québec ,QC 1.8% 3.2%

Despite higher vacancy rates in the Prairie Cities, Calgary still managed to have one of highest rental prices for a metro area in Canada, based on averages of both new and existing structures. The highest average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment, the industry standard, was in Vancouver ($1,345), followed by Calgary ($1,319) and Toronto ($1,269). The CMHC believes the high Calgary average is due to rental increases the city experienced in the first half of 2014.

The national average for a two-bedroom apartment in April was $949 per month.

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