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)
CentreOctober 2011October 2012October 2011October 2012
St. John's1.32.8$771$798
Charlottetown3.35.7$761$803
Halifax2.43.0$925$954
Saint John5.99.7$670$691
Montreal2.52.8$719$711
Quebec City1.62.0$718$741
Ottawa1.42.5$1,086$1,115
Toronto1.41.7$1,149$1,183
Winnipeg1.11.7$875$911
Regina0.61.0$932$979
Saskatoon2.62.6$966$1,002
Calgary1.91.3$1,084$1,150
Edmonton3.31.7$1,034$1,071
Vancouver1.41.8$1,237$1,261
Victoria2.12.7$1,045$1,059
National average (35 centres)2.22.6$883$901