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Exteriors of Chartwell Select Scarlett Heights building at Eglinton Ave. West and Scarlett Rd., a rental retirement residence in Toronto's west end. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Exteriors of Chartwell Select Scarlett Heights building at Eglinton Ave. West and Scarlett Rd., a rental retirement residence in Toronto's west end. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Surplus of available seniors rental housing, survey finds Add to ...

There was a surplus of seniors rental housing available in Canada over the last year, with vacancy rates at seniors-only apartment complexes just above 10 per cent.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. tracks vacancy rates and rents for the country's 2,571 seniors housing complexes each year. The data includes private facilities that are targeted to those over the age of 65, that include services that are not included in typical apartment buildings (such as meal plans).

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The survey set the national vacancy rate at 10.7 per cent, compared to 10.8 per cent at this time last year. The average rent for bachelor units and private rooms - in which at least one meal was included in the rent - was $1,909 a month.

There were large regional variations, however. In Ontario, the most expensive province to rent a suite, the average rent was $2,677. Quebec had the lowest average rent at $1,397.

The study found that 195,262 seniors lived in the residences surveyed. 87 per cent of those seniors rented standard rooms, with minimal levels of care.

The rest of the residents used the rooms as a base for "heavy care" or were rented as "respite rooms" for short-term stays. Room set aside for alternative uses - the survey didn't include long-term care facilities or other provincially funded centres - have a much lower vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent.

"The lower vacancy rate in non-standard spaces can be attributed to the nature of these spaces," the report stated. "Non-market spaces are typically fully occupied while heavy care spaces are sometimes temporarily used."

The survey found the homes are increasing their list of services in a bid to attract tenants. The most popular services found included 24-hour call bell service (92 per cent), on-site nurse service (45 per cent), transportation (45 per cent), exercise rooms (40 per cent), movie rooms (23 per cent), onsite pharmacies (15 per cent), and swimming pools (10 per cent).

"In order to appeal to the evolving needs of today's seniors, residences are offering a wide variety of services and amenities," the report stated. "The key factor in today's market is that seniors are looking more for a lifestyle than just a place to live."

Meanwhile, it's increasingly difficult to find standard rental housing across the country, as a lack of new inventory and a surge of would-be renters pushed the national vacancy rate lower. CMHC said in June the vacancy rate for Canada's rental stock was 2.5 per cent in April, 2011, compared with 2.9 per cent in 2010.



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