British Columbia

Ever lower vacancy rate puts squeeze on Victoria renters

Despite efforts to encourage more rental options in Victoria, an already low vacancy rate has fallen even closer to zero.

High demand for rental units pushes vacancy rate in Victoria down to 0.5 %, CMHC says

Finding a place to rent in Victoria has become an even more challenging task, according a CMHC report. (Stewart Butterfield/Flickr)

Morgan Besant knows exactly how hard it is to find a house to rent in Victoria right now.

Besant, along with his wife and their eight-year-old daughter, rented the same home in the city for more than 10 years. But when their landlords sold the property, they were forced to search for something new.

Besant thought he'd found a new rental home they could afford that even had room for his elderly father who is dealing with health issues, but the plan fell through and the Besants were forced to move in with friends instead.

"I'm keenly aware of how lucky we are in our situation, to have this network. And without it, how many people are out there right now in the position where they would be on the street?" he said.

The Besants are up against a vacancy rate in Victoria that has just dropped to 0.5 per cent. A year ago it was considered among the lowest in Canada at 0.6 per cent.

Morgan Besant, his wife Jade and their young daughter are desperately searching for a new affordable rental home in Victoria. (Morgan Besant)

Efforts to add rentals

The further tightening of the rental market comes despite efforts to add more rental units in the city.

Victoria's city council has moved to fast track the zoning process for buildings that offer rental apartments. It's also working to loosen the rules around secondary rental suites in homes.

But the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation says several factors continue to put the squeeze on renters in Victoria.

The agency points to continued population growth, attractive job prospects and rising prices that are keeping more first-time buyers out of the housing market.

"Would-be first-time homebuyers may have decided to delay purchasing a home, instead remaining in the rental market, adding further demand for rental units," said the agency's 2016 rental market report for Victoria.

A number of units, particularly in Victoria's James Bay neighbourhood have also recently been removed from the rental supply for renovations and upgrades, the CMHC noted.

Finding affordable rentals that are suitable for families is particularly challenging, Besant said.

"It's a real problem. It feels like this city is losing families," he said.