Rent in N.B. still among the cheapest in Canada, but it's going up
Average two-bedroom rents in Moncton jumped 9.1 per cent in 2020, the most in Canada
New Brunswick remained one of the cheapest places in Canada to rent an apartment in 2020, according to a new national survey – although the data was collected before several high-profile rent hikes took effect.
The annual survey, released Thursday, also does not account for all of the increases tenants in the province have been experiencing, including the loss of free utilities.
Still, Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson released a statement saying she was pleased with the finding that rents in the province remain well below the national average.
"The average rent rates shows that New Brunswick still remains the second lowest rent rate in Canada and that is also good news for renters," said the statement.
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The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's annual "Rental Market Survey" reported the average two-bedroom apartment in New Brunswick cost $892 per month to rent in October 2020, $50 more than one year earlier.
Prices for two-bedroom units ranged from a high of $979 per month in Fredericton to a low of $600 in Edmundston.
Those are both well below the national average price for a two-bedroom unit of $1,125, while rents in several major Canadian markets are substantially more than that.
"The average two-bedroom apartment rent was highest in Vancouver ($1,792), Toronto ($1,635), [and] Ottawa ($1,517)," said the report.
The survey supports comments made by Wilson in December and repeated Thursday that New Brunswick has some of the lowest rents in Canada.
But it also showed rents to be increasing faster than the province has been acknowledging, especially in the southeast.
In December, Wilson said she had been told by a major landlord that increases in the province in 2020 were barely matching inflation.
"Seventy-five per cent of tenants renewed their leases since the beginning of the pandemic and received an average rent increase of 1.8 per cent, well below the average increases in provinces with rent controls," Wilson said.
Average 2-bedroom hit $949 in Moncton
But according to the CMHC, average rents in New Brunswick in 2020 were actually up 3.7 percent, third-highest among the provinces, with prices escalating fastest in the greater Moncton area.
Not including new apartment buildings, rents in Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview and other nearby communities were up 4.7 per cent in October 2020 over the previous year, the largest increase in a Canadian metropolitan area outside of Ontario.
But with newly constructed apartment buildings also included, many catering to upper income tenants, the average two-bedroom rent in the Moncton area hit $949 per month in October 2020.
Thats up 9.1 per cent year over year, the highest increase recorded among all 37 census metropolitan areas in the review.
CMHC's October survey does not include a series of rent increases of 50 per cent and higher, which were delivered with 90 days notice to a number of Moncton tenants last fall but did not take effect until this winter.
The survey also does not count renters who lose free utilities as part of their rental agreement as having had a rent increase.
That is happening to tenants in 28 apartments in two buildings on Verdun Street in Moncton that sold to new owners in November.
"We are sorry for the changes, but with the new mortgage and taxes through the sale, it is a necessary step," said the notice from the new landlord.
Those kinds of changes are not tracked by the rental cost survey, according to the CMHC's Angelina Ritacco.
"The rent refers to the actual amount tenants pay for their unit," Ritacco said in an email about the loss of free utilities
"No adjustments are made for the inclusion or exclusion of amenities and services such as heat, hydro, parking, and hot water."
St. Thomas University sociology professor Matthew Hayes, a member of the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, said that even without counting major rent hikes implemented after the survey was completed or changes in utility charges, the numbers in Moncton still show the city is becoming unaffordable to many.
"If you own buildings in choice markets you can increase the rents, and that's what's happening," said Hayes.
"Future data will show people falling into housing precarity or even homelessness."