A logo that says Priced Out: Addressing the Housing Crisis

The apartment rental vacancy rate in Halifax is back to 2019’s historic low, according to new numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

CMHC released its national Rental Market Report on Friday, reporting that the vacancy rate in October 2021 was 1%. That’s down from 1.9% the year before, and matches 2019’s figure. It’s tied for the lowest vacancy rate in Canada, along with Victoria, BC and Peterborough, Ont. The national average is 3.1%.

The report is based on a sample survey of buildings with three or more rental units, and also found average rents in Halifax increased 5.1% to $1,244.

apartment buildings on Barrington Street in Halifax
Apartment buildings in Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford

Despite a net increase of 1,103 units, and 1,600 rental apartment completions, housing supply still isn’t meeting demand in Halifax, CMHC wrote, especially as Canadians from outside the province flocked to the city.

“Nova Scotia emerged as a COVID-19 safety haven in 2020 and 2021 for Canadians fleeing crowded cities and astronomically high house prices. Many located to the Halifax region,” CMHC wrote.

Population increase came largely from Ontario and Alberta, and more than half of the people coming were aged 20-49, “a key segment of both the rental and labor markets.” CMHC said seniors are offloading properties in more expensive markets and moving to Halifax, too.

“These migration trends fueled demand for larger, higher-priced rental apartments, particularly in newer apartment buildings,” CMHC wrote.

“Rents for two-bedroom and larger apartments in newer buildings are only affordable for renters with higher incomes and savings, such as working professionals and retirees.”

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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. RE: low vacancy rate.
    In the very rural place where I live there are dozens and dozens of empty houses not up for sale or up for rent because the owners don’t think they can recoup the value, inherited them but don’t need them, don’t want to be bothered to rent or sell or they moved away etc. (It’s very evident in winter you just look for which houses aren’t getting plowed out and regularly have no vehicles there and as you watch through the summer you realize the house is never lived in). This is true in lots of rural places in NS, even ones relatively close to the city. Even the houses that do go on the market sometimes take half a year or more to sell if they sell at all.

    We’re so bad at collectively managing housing needs that we have people living on the street, people taking whatever they can get in HRM for rentals, as well as absurd and soaring house prices in HRM, while we have hundreds to probably thousands of perfectly livable houses sitting empty elsewhere in the province. Of course not everybody can live rurally for one reason or another but for those that can those rural houses often aren’t even on the market for them to consider leaving the city.

    It’s not a problem that I know a solution to but I’m sure some clever person out there could figure it out.

    1. By 2060 I will be either 96 years old or D-E-D (dead). Hopefully the latter, so I won’t have to see half a million people living on the streets.

      1. There’s about a 50% chance I’ll be alive in 2060, although if I end up homeless before then those odds are a lot lower.