Why rent is so expensive in Canadian cities (that aren’t Toronto or Vancouver)
When rent goes up, it often goes up most dramatically in major urban centers. And, sure enough, Toronto and Vancouver have consistently been in the spotlight as rental prices have skyrocketed over the last year. A two-bedroom apartment in the Ontario capital averaged $1,765 a month in 2022, while the same place in Vancouver soared to $2,002, according to the latest Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
But it isn’t just a problem for Canada’s biggest cities.
Across the country, high-interest rates have left would-be homeowners renting rather than buying, driving up demand in the rental market. Stable youth employment has also boosted demand, as has an uptick in net migration, the report said, given that young people and new immigrants tend to rent rather than buy.
But every region has its own unique factors driving up the cost of rent, from an improved economy in the West to the impact of students returning to campus in college towns.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in some of those other rental markets.
Janice Rourke, 67, recently received a notice that rent in her downtown apartment was going up nearly 24 per cent, an increase it blamed on the rising price of utilities, maintenance and other costs. (Alberta doesn’t have a cap on rent increases, though it does limit how often rent can be raised.)
“That was a huge surprise, when I saw the amount,” said Rourke, who is currently between jobs and said it will be a struggle to afford the new monthly bill.
She’s considered searching for a less expensive place, but says the prices of nearby apartments haven’t been much better.
In Calgary, the average price of a two-bedroom rental apartment grew six per cent last year to $1,466 a month, according to the CMHC.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find safe, affordable accommodation,” said Rourke.
Existing tenants like Rourke and those on the hunt for a first apartment are facing a tight rental market in Calgary these days. Last year, the city’s vacancy rate for purpose-built rentals dropped to 2.7 per cent, its lowest since 2014 when the previous oil boom of the early 2010s lured many people to Alberta.
Rental demand has, this time, again been buoyed by a record-high level of immigration and an uptick in “in-migration” — people moving to the province from elsewhere in Canada — lured by Alberta’s relative affordability and available jobs.
“This [provincial migration] is significant, because we haven’t seen this for a lot of years,” said Michael Mak, CMHC’s analyst for the region.
What makes today different from previous boom times, Mak said, is that the current economic growth isn’t entirely linked to strong commodity prices, though those certainly played a role. Employment has also grown in other sectors, especially technology.
“Nowadays, it’s a much more diversified economy,” said Mak.
The rental market in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, a cluster of three small cities some 90 kilometres southwest of Toronto, has been tight for several years, with a vacancy rate hovering around two per cent. In 2022, it dipped even further to 1.2 per cent, the region’s lowest in two decades.
Meanwhile, apartment rental prices grew by more than seven per cent — faster growth than the nearby markets of Toronto, Guelph and London, according to the CMHC report. The average price for a two-bedroom rental is now $1,469.
Sana Banu, a recent graduate of Conestoga College and president of the students’ union, recalls moving to the region in 2018 as an international student and easily finding a room to rent near the Kitchener campus.
“[Today,] there is no availability anymore within the vicinity of the campus,” said Banu.
The return of students to campus, after so much remote learning during the pandemic, has been among the drivers of the tight rental market, according to CMHC. The region is home to Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.
While all students contribute to demand for rentals, Banu says international students are less likely than domestic students to have family near campus, and more likely to rent while they study.
The number of international students studying in Canada has been on the rise for years, and while their numbers dipped during the outset of the pandemic, the CMHC says there’s since been a “strong rebound” of study permits issued in Ontario.
The CMHC report says a surge in permanent resident admissions in the region has also likely contributed to demand for rentals, as has employment growth in its high-tech sector.
As rental options become fewer and farther between, Banu says more students are commuting from outside the region, couch surfing or piling multiple roommates into the same bedroom. As students become more desperate, she’s also concerned they’ll also be more likely to fall for rental scams.
“There is not enough supply for the demand that we have right now,” she said.
Both international and, increasingly, inter-provincial migration have contributed to high demand for rentals in Halifax. Nova Scotia gained 17,319 people from international migration and 14,079 from within Canada between July 2021 and July 2022, according to the province’s Department of Finance.
Halifax’s recent surge of in-migrants has been due to the province’s relatively low cost of housing and its reputation for handling the pandemic, along with the growing ability of workers to do their jobs remotely, according to the city’s economic development agency.
The CMHC report says in-migrants are generally less likely to rent and more likely to purchase homes, though this, too, has contributed to the high cost of renting.
“Local residents are having to stay in rentals longer just so that they can step up to buy a home,” said Kelvin Ndoro, CMHC’s analyst for the region.
After trending down for the last few years, the vacancy rate in Halifax held steady in 2022 at one per cent, said Ndoro. Meanwhile, the cost of rent shot up by roughly nine per cent, to an average of $1,449 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Amid that record-low vacancy rate, Chris Ryan, a Halifax property manager, says he gets between three to five inquiries a day from people asking if he has any inventory available.
“We’re just growing at a pace that real estate hasn’t caught up to yet,” he said.
Halifax, like Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, has an abundance of post-secondary schools. And the post-pandemic return of students to campus — and international students in particular — has contributed to demand for rentals, the CMHC report noted.
International student enrolment has been on the rise there for years (aside from a dip during the pandemic), according to data from the Halifax Partnership. The economic development agency says the share of international students attending university in Halifax has grown from about 14 per cent of enrolments in 2011-12, to about 23 per cent in 2021-22.
Kyle Cook, vice-president of advocacy for the Saint Mary’s University Student Association, says the lack of student housing has left some in a precarious position.
“Often we’re hearing … that students are renting out their living rooms, hallways,and sometimes having to share two to three people in one room,” said Cook. “It’s something that is very common, especially over the last few years since COVID.”
As more people move into Halifax, others have left for nearby communities, in search of a more affordable place to live, Ndoro says.
Some young people are opting out of the rental market altogether, he said, instead choosing to live with their parents to save money.
There are differences in what’s fuelling rental demand throughout Canada, but also plenty of similarities. As interest rates go up, it becomes more difficult to buy, pushing more people to rent for longer.
People are also moving into Canada and within it — whether for school, work or in search of an affordable place to live — leading to heightened demand in various markets, even those where inexpensive apartments have historically been fairly easy to find.
There is also one major similarity in what is expected to solve the affordability problem: more housing supply.
“[The results of this report] reinforce the urgent need to accelerate housing supply and address supply gaps to improve housing affordability for Canadians,” the CMHC report said.
‘People are going to be shocked’: NSLC hikes prices ahead of federal tax increase
Regular shoppers at Nova Scotia liquor stores faced significant price hikes Monday on beer, wine and spirits.
Retiree John McCracken was picking up his usual bottle of wine when he spoke to CTV News outside the NSLC store on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax.
“I bought last week, the same bottle was $2 less,” said McCracken. “We’re talking like $15, $16 bottle of wine. So not high-end wine.”
“If you go into that liquor store right now, people are going to be shocked.”
Workers were replacing pricing signs in all stores on Monday, but officials insist the overall increase only amounts to about 3 per cent.
“It has to do with overall costs to our supplier community. So that could be anything from freight, transportation, commodities costs, things like glass or aluminum, or other commodities like barley — all of those things are seeing an increase in price, and that’s what factoring in to the overall price increase,” said Allison Himmelman, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC).
She says the increase is below the cost of inflation.
Last month, the corporation reported a healthy earnings increase of 6.6 per cent.
On April 1, federal excise taxes are set to increase another 6.3 per cent — the biggest increase in 40 years.
“The excise tax is actually just one factor that goes into our overall prices here at the NSLC,” said Himmelman.
“And it’s actually a very small factor because not all suppliers choose to pass on that excise tax to their retail product prices.”
Still, some local bars and restaurants say the hikes will have to be passed on to customers, which will hurt business.
“There’s no doubt, yeah, we can’t absorb it,” said Dimo Georgakakos, owner of the iconic Gus’ Pub & Grill in Halifax’s north end.
“We’ve been absorbing so many things, and in the bar business we’re a stoic bunch, and we just sort of put our heads down and keep doing it. And now, they just sort of do that and we’ve got to pass it on and it’s going to make customers come here less,” said Georgakakos, son of the bar’s founder.
He and others are still recovering from lost business in the pandemic, and worry many customers have gotten used to staying home.
“In general, things are not going to get back to the way they were,” said Georgakakos. “It’s going to be different.”
NSLC notes that increased revenue from price adjustments is also shared with producers, including Nova Scotia wineries, brewers and distillers.
Saudi National Bank appoints chairman after Credit Suisse loss
Decision made nearly two weeks after former chairman Ammar Al Khudairy said the kingdom’s biggest bank by assets would not buy more shares in Credit Suisse on regulatory grounds.
Saudi National Bank, the largest shareholder in Credit Suisse before the bank’s rescue this month, named a new chairman after the lender suffered significant losses on its investment.
CEO Saeed Mohammed Al Ghamdi will take over as the new chairman from Ammar Al Khudairy, who resigned for personal reasons, the bank said on Monday. Deputy CEO Talal Ahmed Al Khereiji takes over as acting chief executive, a bourse statement said.
All changes are effective on Monday and come nearly two weeks after Al Khudairy said the kingdom’s biggest bank by assets would not buy more shares in the Swiss financial institution on regulatory grounds.
The remarks were seen as a trigger to a further sell-off in Credit Suisse’s shares and intensified a crisis of confidence in the lender that had already seen clients pull out more than $110bn in the last three months of 2022.
Combined with global jitters in the banking sector and an already weakened share price, Al Khudairy’s comments contributed to Credit Suisse losing a fifth of its value, which eventually forced it into a takeover by its domestic rival UBS for $3.2bn.
Saudi National Bank, which acquired almost 9.9 percent of Credit Suisse for 5.5 billion riyals ($1.46bn) in November, has itself lost more than $26bn in market value since October 27 after committing to the investment.
By last week, it was sitting on a loss of more than $1bn but said on March 20 that the drop in its investment’s value had no impact on its growth plans and would not affect profitability.
Al Khudairy also said this month that the bank was not looking at any international acquisitions now and instead was focused on its Saudi business.
What every Canadian investor needs to know today
Canada’s main stock index opened up on Monday with energy and financial stocks adding upward pressure. On Wall Street, key indexes also started higher after a deal to acquire a big chunk of Silicon Valley Bank helped ease concerns about the health of the sector.
At 9:30 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 58.63 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 19,560.12.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.19 points, or 0.12 per cent, at the open to 32,276.72. The S&P 500 opened higher by 11.94 points, or 0.30 per cent, at 3,982.93, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 44.58 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 11,868.54 at the opening bell.
Overnight, First Citizens said it would buy Silicon Valley Bank’s deposits and loans along with certain other assets from the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The FDIC said in separate statement it has received equity appreciation rights in First Citizens stock with a potential value of up to U.S. $500-million as part of the deal, Reuters reported. First Citizens said the transaction was structured to preserve its solid financial position and the combined company will have a diverse loan portfolio and deposit base.
SVB’s collapse, the biggest since the 2008 financial crisis, earlier this month sent shockwaves through the global banking sector, triggering huge market volatility and an heightened focus on the health of institutions around the world.
In Canada, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal government’s next budget on Tuesday afternoon. Investors will be looking for inflation relief among efforts to address the rising cost of living for Canadians.
“Climate policy, and more specifically, Canada’s response to the massive U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, will headline the budget,” Alvin Tan, Asia FX strategist with RBC, said.
“Some targeted relief to help more vulnerable groups cope with higher living costs is also expected, but plans to return the budget to balance remain at best aspirational.”
Later in the week, investors will get a look at the health of the Canadian economy at the start of the year when Statistics Canada releases its report on January GDP on Friday. Early estimates suggest GDP grew 0.3 per cent for the month.
Canadian companies reporting results include Dollarama on Wednesday and BlackBerry on Thursday.
The latest deadline to close Rogers Communications’ $20-billion deal to buy Shaw Communications expires at the end of the week. The companies are awaiting federal approval for the acquisition.
Overseas, the pan-European STOXX 600 was up 1.21 per cent by midday. Britain’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.95 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 were up 1.29 per cent and 1.06 per cent, respectively.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished 0.33-per-cent higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.75 per cent.
Crude prices advanced as developments in the banking sector helped ease jitters in broader markets.
The day range on Brent was US$74.80 to US$75.96 in the early premarket period. The range on West Texas Intermediate was US$69.13 to US$70.24.
Brent added about 2.8 per cent last week while WTI rose more than 3 per cent.
Sentiment drew some support from new that First Citizens would buy a big chunk of failed Silicon Valley Bank, helping ease concerns about the state of the global banking sector.
Prices also saw some upward pressure from rising geopolitical tensions in Europe amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Reuters reports that the move is one of Russia’s most pronounced nuclear signals yet and a warning to NATO over its military support for Ukraine, which has called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in response. NATO slammed Putin for his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.
In other commodities, gold prices fell for a second session as the U.S. dollar held relatively steady.
Spot gold was down 0.5 per cent at US$1,967.86 per ounce by early Monday morning. U.S. gold futures slipped 0.8 per cent to US$1,968.90.
The Canadian dollar was up modestly while its U.S. counterpart held recent gains against a group of world currencies.
The day range on the loonie was 72.75 US cents to 72.90 US cents early Monday morning.
There were no major Canadian economic releases due Monday.
On world markets, the dollar index, which measures the currency against six rivals, rose 0.06 per cent at 103.05, after advancing 0.5 per cent on Friday as investors sought safer holdings amid concerns about the health of the world’s banking sector.
The euro was up 0.08 per cent to US$1.0771, after falling 0.6 per cent on Friday, according to figures from Reuters.
Britain’s pound was at US$1.2260, up 0.25 per cent, after falling 0.5 per cent on Friday. The Australian dollar rose 0.14 per cent to US$0.6652. The New Zealand dollar was up 0.02 per cent at US$0.6202.
More company news
The Globe’s James Bradshaw reports Onex Corp. is offering to shorten a sunset clause that would keep founder Gerry Schwartz in control of the company to three years in a bid to win support from shareholders over the founder’s plan to step down as CEO. Mr. Schwartz, 80, is chairman and chief executive officer and also controls the $50-billion private equity and asset management company through multiple voting shares. He plans to step aside this spring, with president Bobby Le Blanc taking over as CEO.
Australia’s Origin Energy Ltd on Monday agreed a A$15.35 billion (US$10.21-billion) takeover offer from a consortium led by Canada’s Brookfield, nearing the conclusion of one of the biggest private equity-backed buyouts in the country announced last year. Once the deal is finalized, Origin will be broken up into two businesses – Energy Markets business to be acquired by Brookfield; while MidOcean Energy, the other consortium partner, would take control of Origin’s integrated gas business. –Reuters
Toronto-based Li-Cycle Holdings Corp said on Monday it will build a French facility to break down batteries from forklift manufacturer The Kion Group, marking the latest expansion by the rapidly growing recycling company. The French facility, which is expected to open in 2024 and complement similar sites under development in Germany and Norway, will break down lithium-ion batteries that power Kion’s forklifts and other heavy machinery, giving Li-Cycle a fresh source of batteries to recycle beyond the consumer automobile market. –Reuters
Germany business climate
With Reuters and The Canadian Press
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