Rental accommodation became a little easier to find in Canada this year as more apartment buildings came on the market and young adults faced a tough job climate, leading to less demand for rental housing. 

The average apartment vacancy rate in 35 major urban markets was 2.6 per cent in October, up from 2.2 per cent a year earlier, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Thursday.

But that average hid a huge range in availability. In Regina, for instance, the vacancy rate was just 1.0 per cent. It wasn’t much better in Thunder Bay, Ont., (1.1 per cent), or Calgary (1.3 per cent).

Condo impact

The vacancy rate rose slightly in Canada’s biggest urban centres of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but declined in Calgary and Edmonton.

"Demand for rental condominium apartments remained strong," said CMHC deputy chief economist Mathieu Laberge.

At the other end of the spectrum, the vacancy rate in Saint John was 9.7 per cent.

Windsor, Ont., (7.3 per cent) and Moncton, N.B. (6.7 per cent) also had high vacancy rates.

Despite a higher average vacancy rate overall, CMHC says the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in October was $875 — up 2.2 per cent from a year earlier.

Vancouver remained the most expensive city in which to rent. Landlords in that city were getting an average of $1,261 for their two-bedroom apartments. The Toronto market was the second most expensive, at $1,183. Calgary was third, at $1,150.

Three communities in Quebec — Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, and Sherbrooke — offered the cheapest rental rates at $549 to $578 for a two-bedroom unit.

Rental apartment vacancy rate and rents - CMHC data

Vacancy rate (%) Average rent (2 bedroom)
Centre October 2011 October 2012 October 2011 October 2012
St. John's 1.3 2.8 $771 $798
Charlottetown 3.3 5.7 $761 $803
Halifax 2.4 3.0 $925 $954
Saint John 5.9 9.7 $670 $691
Montreal 2.5 2.8 $719 $711
Quebec City 1.6 2.0 $718 $741
Ottawa 1.4 2.5 $1,086 $1,115
Toronto 1.4 1.7 $1,149 $1,183
Winnipeg 1.1 1.7 $875 $911
Regina 0.6 1.0 $932 $979
Saskatoon 2.6 2.6 $966 $1,002
Calgary 1.9 1.3 $1,084 $1,150
Edmonton 3.3 1.7 $1,034 $1,071
Vancouver 1.4 1.8 $1,237 $1,261
Victoria 2.1 2.7 $1,045 $1,059
National average (35 centres) 2.2 2.6 $883 $901