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Halifax sees highest year-over-year rent increase for a Canadian city, says CMHC

A passenger ferry, operated by Halifax Transit, makes its way across the Halifax harbour to the Woodside ferry terminal in Dartmouth, N.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives A passenger ferry, operated by Halifax Transit, makes its way across the Halifax harbour to the Woodside ferry terminal in Dartmouth, N.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives
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HALIFAX -

With the average rent up 9.3 per cent, Halifax has had the highest year-over-year spike in the country for residential rental costs, says Canada's national housing agency.

The executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia said the data is not surprising and that the impact of soaring rent is evident in the record number of Haligonians experiencing chronic homelessness.

As of Jan. 25, the association had identified 796 people in Halifax who had been without housing for more than six months, Michael Kabalen said in an interview Friday.

"That's the highest we've ever seen," Kabalen said, noting that prior to the pandemic, the association was reporting that about 250 people in Halifax were chronically homeless.

Released Thursday, the annual report of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the average rent for a two-bedroom residence in Halifax jumped 9.3 per cent between 2021 and 2022, hitting $1,449 per month. That rise is well above the national average increase of 5.6 per cent, which brought the average rent for a two-bedroom unit in Canada to $1,258 monthly.

Vacancy rates in Halifax were at one per cent as of October 2022, below the Canadian average of 1.9 per cent -- the lowest national vacancy rate since 2001.

Kelvin Ndoro, a market analyst with the housing agency, said the "situation is dire" for low-income renters, who must compete for the limited housing options as just three per cent of total rental units in Halifax are considered affordable to the lowest 20 per cent income earners.

Kabalen agreed: "The constant conversation at our tables is that we can't find suitable housing for the clients."

His group has partnered with the federal government to tackle homelessness by funding community-based housing support groups and using its growing portfolio of residential units to increase the housing supply. It is renting out about 160 units of varying affordability in the province, Kabalen said, adding that two new apartment builds in Dartmouth, N.S., are underway.

Ndoro said the biggest takeaway from the housing agency's annual report is that more rental housing is needed at all price points. In order to incentivize new residential builds in the current economic climate, he said, units will have to be rented at a higher cost to compensate for the effect of inflation on building expenses.

"We need much more new housing supply," he said, adding the focus of new builds shouldn't be on a unit's price when it hits the market. "Because if there's lots of supply on the market, they will have to bring down their prices in order to compete."

Like Halifax, neighbouring New Brunswick's two biggest cities also saw an average rent rate increase above the national average. In Moncton, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose 6.4 per cent year-over-year, and in Saint John it rose 7.6 per cent.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the average two-bedroom rent rose 4.2 per cent between 2021 and 2022, below the national average.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Correction

This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the last name of Kelvin Ndoro.

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