Downtown Victoria (ram.myadventure/Instagram)

Housing in BC is a simmering topic right now, and over the last year, Victorians saw an increase in both rental vacancy rates and average rent prices.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) October rental market report, vacancy rates last month reached 1.2%, a 5% increase from October 2017’s 0.7% rate.

While the higher vacancy rate eases some pressure on would-be renters, the increase in average rent prices presents its own challenges.

Rent in the city increased by 7.5% compared to October of last year. Moreover, 2017’s average rent increase rang in at 7.7% over 2016, which was the largest rent hike since 1991.

According to CMHC, the average monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment in Metro Victoria last month was $1,406. In 2017, the average rent for the same space was $1,288 in October 2017.

Background

The corporation believes that one factor of the vacancy increase is Victoria’s shift from homeownership to rental demand.

Victoria’s population is on the rise and peaked in 2016. CMHC claims that construction in the city was initially slow to respond to the growing population, but has recently improved.

Multi-year construction projects in the city are beginning reach completion, partly explaining the added rental vacancy.

“These starts have taken the form of larger apartment buildings with longer construction times,” reads the report.

“Therefore, the supply represented by this heightened level of construction has only recently started to contribute to significant growth in the rental universe and, consequently, the rise in vacancy rates in Metro Victoria.”

In 2015, approximately 3% of the existing purpose-built landscape was recent developments. In 2017 that share rose 6% and in October 2018 it rose by another 6%.

While vacancies saw an uptick last month, the rate still falls short of the city’s housing demand. While solutions are in the works, Victoria’s housing woes remain.

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