Regina vacancy rate climbs, but cost of monthly rents largely unchanged

Despite an increasing vacancy rate in Regina, rental pricing has moved very little, a situation one advocate says comes as a disappointment.

Anti-poverty advocate says 'we've moved from a crisis of availability to one of affordability'

Rental vacancies went up between 2017 and 2018 in Regina, and sat at 7.7 per cent in October of 2018. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

Despite an increasing vacancy rate in Regina, rental pricing has moved very little, a situation one advocate says comes as a disappointment.

"I would say that we've moved from a crisis of availability to one of affordability, but the reality is that many of the people that we are working with aren't able to afford their rent," said Peter Gilmer, with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.

A report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. shows Regina's rental vacancy rate increased from 7.0 per cent in 2017 to 7.7 per cent in October 2018.  

Rental prices rose 43 per cent between 2006 and 2010, and continued to rise steadily in the following six years, according to Gilmer.

The average rent in Regina as of October 2018 was $1,041, a decrease of 0.4 per cent from the same time in 2017.

"So in a sense the horse is really out of the barn in regards to the lack of affordability for the people that we work with on low and fixed incomes," said Gilmer, adding he expected higher vacancy rates might have put downward pressure on pricing.

Peter Gilmer, advocate with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, says it used to be there were very few vacancies available. Now there are more options, but it's still hard for people on low or fixed incomes to find affordable housing, he said. (CBC)

The city's vacancy rate target is three per cent, which it says it reached in 2014.

Regina has seen its rental demand increase, according to CMHC, but its supply has risen at a much higher rate, with more than 3,800 rental apartments coming into the market in Regina between 2012 and 2017.

Vacancy rates have been climbing for the past seven years. (City of Regina report)
Regina rents can be seen here across bedroom types. (City of Regina report)

The increased vacancy rate will affect the city's approach to condominium conversions. Condo conversions can be considered in any neighbourhood zone, so long as that doesn't mean the vacancy rate in that zone will fall below three per cent, according to a city report.

Condo conversions problematic, says advocate

Gilmer is worried that's not the right direction to take.

"One of the big reasons why we still have a crisis in terms in relation to a lack of affordable housing is due to the loss of so many affordable rental units through condominium conversion in the course of the last decade," said Gilmer, adding the problem was exacerbated by the province's decision not to implement rent controls.

However, Gord Archibald, CEO of Association of Regina Realtors, doesn't believe the rule will result in more condos being built, given current market conditions in the city.

"We have very high vacancy rates and we have excessive supply of housing out there, on the ownership market," he said, noting there's already a lot of competition now for these sales.

Currently, there are 356 condos on the Regina market, representing 25 to 30 per cent of all active listings, according to Archibald. More than half of those condos are apartments, he said.

"The likelihood of any investor being prepared to convert a rental unit into a condo for sale is virtually nil at this point in time."


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