To analyze multi-family rentals, vacancy trends across Canada | RENX


Panelists discuss the performance of the Canadian multi-family apartment sector at the Canadian Apartment Investment Conference on September 22. (Steve McLean, RENX, CAIC panel screenshot)

COVID-19 has had a major effect on all aspects of society, and multi-residential rental and vacancy rates have not escaped its clutches.

Starlight Investments Executive Director of Asset Management and Marketing Michael Hanak moderated a five-member panel that explored the impact of the pandemic and provided insight into what to expect in the future when of the Canadian Apartment Investment Conference September 22.

Hanak and the panelists described the performance of their portfolios, breaking down the results by region and asset type. They also described specific issues they faced during the ongoing pandemic.

McEvay Blair Multifamily Group

James Blair is Vancouver’s Senior Vice President McEvay Blair Multifamily Group To Marcus & Millichap, which has amassed over $ 1 billion in investment sales volume. He said the city’s vacancy rate fell from 1% to 2.8% during the pandemic and rents had come down.

The vacancy rate fell from less than 1% to around 13% University of British Columbia, which was no surprise as the pandemic closed classes and had a huge impact on the large student body – especially international students – who live around campus.

Vancouver’s South Granville area is home to young people who wanted or needed to live close to the downtown area, and the vacancy rate there fell from near zero to nearly 2%, according to Blair.

Vancouver’s urban vacancy rates are falling, Blair noted, although “the market is still quite price sensitive in many cases.”

There has been a shift to smaller and suburban British Columbia markets including Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Penticton and the Thompson-Okanagan area, where Blair said the vacancy rate had dropped from two to three percent to less than one percent.

Nanaimo, Parksville and Campbell River on Vancouver Island have also seen their vacancy rates drop and rents rise, he added.

QuadReal Real Estate Group

QuadReal Real Estate Group is a Vancouver-headquartered real estate investment, operations and development company with $ 61.2 billion in assets under management.

It has a significant concentration of properties in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Senior Vice President of Residential Operations Dean Holmes said suburban assets in all three markets have weathered the pandemic very well as revenue has remained low and rental speed has remained strong.

Turnover was considerably higher in urban areas of all three markets due to migration to the suburbs, according to Holmes.

Occupation hit a low in March, but Holmes said things have since returned to fashion, particularly in Vancouver, where they have returned to pre-pandemic levels of around 90%.

“Our rental speed across the portfolio is about 20% faster in the past three or four months than it was before the pandemic,” Holmes said. “We are seeing a big return to normal. “

The Calgary rental market continues to struggle, in part due to the arrival of many new offers on the market. Rental incentives have become common.

Holmes said QuadReal’s Kitchener and Cambridge assets have performed well at the expense of its downtown Toronto properties. These assets struggled during the pandemic, but are now making a comeback due to the growing number of people returning to offices and universities, as well as increased immigration.

The rents paid by incoming tenants, relative to outgoing tenants of these units, show double-digit growth in Vancouver and are slightly below 10% in Toronto, but remain negative in Calgary compared to pre-market rent levels. pandemic, according to Holmes.

Realstar Group

Realstar Group is a private real estate investment and management company formed in 1974 with more than $ 7 billion in assets, including more than 25,000 rental units across Canada.

The Toronto-based company has approximately 3,000 suites in British Columbia, and Vice President of Asset Management Hedayat Nasoody has had sustained activity on Vancouver Island outside of downtown Victoria, which showed some weakness.

“Downtown Vancouver has been a struggle for us,” he said. “The product that we have in downtown Vancouver is between $ 3 and $ 4 per square foot, and that’s the type of product that has seen a weakness.

As rents fell 5 percent to 10 percent in relatively new buildings in Vancouver, Nasoody said this was offset by strong performance from Langford and Nanaimo, which saw rent growth of 10 percent or more. .

Kelowna has also been robust with tight vacancy rates and healthy rents, according to Nasoody.

Rents are down 10% or more in Edmonton, where incentives are used. Conversely, Nasoody said Calgary and nearby Airdrie performed well and saw a five percent rent increase from last year.

Ontario’s secondary markets, including Oshawa, Cobourg, Belleville and Owen Sound, have seen sharp rent increases while downtown urban properties have weakened, according to Nasoody.

Quebec has been very stable with rent increases of two to five percent while the Maritime provinces have remained very strong, Nasoody said.

“The beauty of going into 2022 is that there isn’t a market that we think will deteriorate, including Alberta,” he concluded. “We are optimistic. With the rent freeze in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia scheduled to end at the end of this year, we will again have rent renewal increases.

Fiera Real Estate

Fiera Real Estate is an investment management firm with offices in North America and Europe. It had 346 properties valued at US $ 5.3 billion under management at the end of June.

Vice President of Asset Management Erin Shirley-Wong said the company’s portfolio in Halifax has seen rental rate growth and high occupancy with little turnover. Leases were quick when the tenants moved out.

There has been some weakness in Toronto and Ottawa, according to Shirley-Wong, but rents and occupancy in Vancouver have performed well.

“I don’t know how many months we have before this price sensitivity starts to shift a little more towards the interest in the amenity space and the willingness to pay a little more to get a better unit or building. finished. which has more amenities within it, ”said Shirley-Wong.

“I suspect that throughout 2022 we might start to see this demand increase a bit.”


While Necklaces does not own any properties, the professional services and investment management firm has been involved in 54,000 rental and sale transactions and manages approximately two billion square feet of assets valued at $ 45 billion.

Senior Director of National Research and Analysis for Canada Roelof van Dijk said rental demand was hit in Canada’s downtown areas when people lost their jobs in the entertainment industries or did not go to office buildings.

“If you’re not using downtown amenities, why pay the rent at the end of your lease? We have seen a lot of people move to the suburbs. We saw a lot of people overtake. We have seen people go back to live with their parents.

Some young professionals who have moved out of downtown areas have saved up money and are now coming back to rent or buy condominiums in anticipation of their return to the office. van Dijk expects demand from the city center to return over the next year and reduce vacancies.

“Vacancy rates have gone up, but they’re down from ridiculously low levels in a lot of these markets,” he said.

Starlight Investments

Toronto-based Starlight Investments manages $ 20 billion in assets, including 60,000 multi-family units valued at $ 16 billion in Canada.

Hanak identified Kitchener as a popular rental location in Ontario. Nanaimo and Victoria experienced similar demand in British Columbia, with leases only taking a few months.

“There is a demand for a good rental product,” Hanak said. “We are definitely on the rise. We see this in many markets. Are we all the way there? No, but everything is going in the right direction.

“There is still a supply problem, and it will continue to be, but the demand is there. We think the rest of this year will be good.


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