Burnaby sees region's worst drop in its already-terrible vacancy rate

Burnaby has set a dubious mark when it comes to available rental housing, pushing local rents even higher.

Burnaby saw Metro Vancouver’s largest decline in overall vacancy rates, dropping from two per cent to 1.3 per cent, according to data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

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This means far fewer units are available to renters, as the number of available units in Burnaby has almost halved over a year.

Eric Bond, CMHC’s senior specialist of market analysis, told Glacier Media in an interview, “The rental vacancy rate decreased in Burnaby in 2019, and that coincided with a year in which the universe of rental apartments also decreased by 255 units. That’s due to the number of units taking offline, because of eviction and demolition, exceeding the number of new rental units that were completed. Burnaby led the region last year in terms of condo construction, and it’s not always clear whether removals from the rental universe are in fact replaced with rental, or replaced with condos or other development.”

The overall rental vacancy rate (the percentage of overall rental units that are vacant and available) has increased only incrementally, to 1.1 per cent across Metro Vancouver, compared with 1 per cent one year previously. 

All this demand has resulted in average rents across the region increasing by 4.7 per cent compared with one year earlier (up 4.6 per cent in the City of Vancouver, 4.9 per cent in Burnaby and 7.7 per cent in West Vancouver). These figures are above the provincially set rent control cap of 2.5 per cent per year

The reason average rent increases can outstrip rent control is that rent control is only applied to existing tenants, meaning landlords cannot increase a tenant’s rent by more than 2.5 per cent per year. As landlords can put rents up by any amount between tenancies, and tenancies tend to have a high turnover, average rents can easily rise by more than rent control.

Burnaby is the third-most expensive rental market in Canada, behind Vancouver and Toronto.

  • With files from Joannah Connolly, Glacier Media Real Estate

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