Lori McNevan is experiencing the country’s rental problem firsthand. Since 2016, Ms. McNevan has been renting a lovely detached three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a garage and large fenced backyard in Stratford, Ont. The $1,300 monthly rent was reasonable to start and has since only risen to $1,338.
But in early March, Ms. McNevan, an employed support worker for more than 20 years, received notice that the owner is moving back from Australia, and she needs to move out by June 1. As a single parent household, with a daughter in university and a 13-year-old son hoping to stay in the same school district, finding new affordable accommodations has been challenging.
“The reality of what is out there now for that amount is a one-bedroom basement apartment,” says Ms. McNevan. “Ideally, I would love to have a three-bedroom for when my daughter comes home, but realistically I’ve discovered that even two bedrooms are $2,000 per month plus utilities.”
These high rents are often attributed to large cities, but it’s clear that small towns and suburbs across Canada are facing similar rental pressures to the country’s biggest urban centres.
“The biggest change over the past six months is a return to downtown with big rent increases in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as decent rent growth in cities like London, Hamilton and Kingston in Ontario,” says Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research and Consulting Inc., a residential real estate advisory firm in Toronto.
“We’re getting back to a somewhat normal marketplace, but as some employers continue to allow employees to work from home, I think we’ll continue to see some upward pressure on rents in smaller communities.”
Mr. Myers does the monthly data analysis for Rentals.ca, producing its National Rent Report. Rentals.ca lists thousands of apartments, houses, townhomes and condos for rent from St. John’s to Victoria. According to the Rentals.ca national rent report for April, 2022, the rental market across Canada continues to recover from its earlier dip a year ago, approaching levels comparable to those before the pandemic.
Single-family homes, townhouses and condo apartments specifically have experienced significant annual increases in average monthly rental rates. Based on listings on Rentals.ca, the average rent for all Canadian properties in March, 2022, was $1,818 per month, representing an annual increase of 6.6 per cent from $1,706 per month in March, 2021.
Only three municipalities out of the top 20 experienced an annual decline in average monthly rent – Regina, Nepean, Ont., and Winnipeg. Provincially, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia saw dramatic annual changes in average rents with hikes of 21.7 per cent and 15.1 per cent, respectively.
“It seems like in Toronto, we’re only catering to younger professionals by building small housing units, so the single-family market is only going to get more and more expensive,” says Mr. Myers. “I see that being a factor for more and more families moving out of Toronto and outside the GTA for cheaper housing.”
With this supply imbalance, the situation can only get worse, he says.
“With strong immigration and good employment numbers, we’re not delivering enough new construction to satisfy demand. As we continue to undersupply the marketplace, I can only see rents continuing to go up.”
Dave Harwood, a sales representative for Royal LePage Hiller Realty Brokerage in Stratford, believes the biggest factor driving up rentals is escalating real estate prices.
“There’s a lot more demand for rental housing than there is supply,” says Mr. Harwood. “For every vacant rental house, there’s often a dozen people interested who would make good tenants for the property.”
“In the last 12 months, the average price of properties has gone up 30 per cent here in the Perth Real Estate Board,” he continues. “If somebody sells their rental, or sells their house and it becomes a rental, the buyer is paying a much bigger purchase price for that house than the previous owner, so the rent goes up accordingly.”
“People are investing in real estate,” says Mr. Harwood. “I’m dealing with people that have one or two rental properties and are putting [more of] their money into property. They don’t want to gouge people, but they still have to cover the mortgage, insurance, taxes and a bit of repairs and upgrades each year. They’ve got a number to hit.”
A determined Ms. McNevan is considering alternatives, including selling her recreational trailer at a nearby campground to enable her to buy. But so far, the homes she’s viewed have all sold for $20,000 to $200,000 over list price, even in neighbouring towns.
“The real estate struggle is definitely real, and I absolutely empathize with those seeking affordable accommodations,” says Ms. McNevan. “It’s been consuming and frustrating setting up viewing appointments and trying to minimize the overall stress of it all.”