Low vacancy rates in Halifax leave many without housing
HALIFAX -- Finding a place to live in Halifax is becoming increasingly difficult for many home hunters. With vacancy rates in the city dropping below major hubs like Vancouver and Toronto, advocates are raising their concerns.
"It's really expensive,” says Naomi Curro, who is struggling to find a new apartment. “I want to move in with somebody to make it cheaper – but you can't find anything."
Curro isn't alone in her search; a new study by the Canadian Mortage and Housing Corporation found the vacancy rate in Halifax is only 1 percent.
"I've never seen it this low and most people haven't,” says United Way Halifax manager of partnerships and community development, Kevin Hooper. “These are historically low numbers, and they're dire."
Hooper notes the low vacancy rate poses challenges for anyone seeking housing.
"The study also suggests that that vacancy rate is actually quite significantly lower for people looking for affordable housing – almost half a percent,” says Hooper. “For those people, trying to find an apartment is hard enough at the best of times.”
The Investment Property Owners Association says the low vacancy rate means landlords are experiencing lower turnover rates.
"With availability, this tight, landlords are receiving more applications,” says Investment Property Owners Association executive director, Kevin Russell. “Before they would get two, three, four; now they're getting six, ten, fifteen applications for a vacancy."
Russell says inward migration is one of the major factors causing the low vacancy rate.
"That's the result of newcomers coming to Canada, to Nova Scotia specifically. It's also the increase in international students going to the universities,” says Russell, who notes another trend is also on the rise. “There's actually a lot of native Haligonians returning home, who went away from careers, and they're now returning because they see lots of opportunities here to pursue a career or to start a new business."
The city says a healthy vacancy rate is between 3 to 5 percent. With a 1 percent vacancy rate, it means there is very little available to those looking to rent.
"Over the past couple years, the vacancy rate has been decreasing fairly steadily,” says HRM Planning & Development city planner, Jill MacLellan. “It's not surprising, but it definitely is concerning."
The city says it is working on initiatives to increase rental opportunities.
"One of them is, we're looking at secondary backyard suites and allowing them throughout the municipality,” says MacLellan. “This would be a small apartment or a small detached apartment to your house."
In the meantime, Curro, who is studying at Dalhousie, says her apartment hunting struggles could force her to leave Halifax if she can't find a place soon.
"If I don't find anything, I'm going back to Ottawa because I’ll have a place to live – which is insane," says Curro.