Over the last decade, Canada has been losing affordable rental units far faster than new ones are being built. The rental housing bleed is being felt across the country, but as a recent report highlights, the impact has been especially large here in Vancouver.
The vacancy rate for purpose-built rentals in Metro Vancouver is now less than 1%, below the national average of 1.9% and down from 2.6% in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Not only does this give prospective renters fewer places to live, it drives up costs, which are particularly exorbitant for incoming tenants.
Sitting tenants are protected by limitations on rent increases, but without vacancy control landlords can freely increase rent on vacant units, resulting in a difference of almost $1,000 between incoming renters and long-term tenants in comparable units. With rent now sitting at nearly $3,000 for a two-bedroom Vancouver apartment, and the city’s housing prices jumping nearly double the national average since 2006, what was once considered affordable is increasingly out of reach for the average Vancouverite who works full-time.
With so many people caught in the crisis, the government has tried numerous remedies working with the housing already built. There have been speculation and vacancy taxes, changes to rental restrictions in strata, and one-time tax rebates to name a few of the better-known examples. There are aspects of these approaches to like, but ultimately their impact is limited. To make the biggest difference, government must refocus and redouble its efforts to address the problem directly: we must build more housing.
While some progress has been made by the provincial government in increasing the supply of rental housing stock — a record 3,805 purpose-built units were built last year — it has failed to keep pace with the need for such housing: 15,000 new units a year are required to satisfy demand in a region where 40% of residents live in rental housing.
The provincial government must not only level up its investment in purpose-built rental housing, with an emphasis on density and a move away from single-family homes to allow for more units, it must lobby the federal government to do the same — with every bit the fervor they had approaching the federal government for healthcare funding. And to build more, we also have to build housing faster and more efficiently.
Now is the time to buy, build and invest in real estate!