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Why vacancy rate statistics don't tell the whole story

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
November 28, 2017 - 4:28 PM

You may have heard all kinds of facts and figures this morning about vacancy rates in your city but the truth is, no one knows what the real vacancy rates are.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released its 2017 rental report findings today, showing that vacancy rates have dipped almost everywhere, while average rents are going up. But that’s not the full picture, and here’s why.

The housing corporation only measures vacancy rates and rents for “purpose-built rentals” (ie. made to rent) comprised of at least three units, usually run by a manager, senior market analyst Taylor Pardy says. That means basement suites, full houses for rent, and duplexes aren’t captured in this study — or any others that we’re aware of.

“Vacancy rates for things like basement suites and single detached homes, I’m not sure of a source for that,” Pardy says. “It’s just so difficult to capture that because it’s all individual owners.”

That explains why someone, say in Vernon, might roll their eyes at the report’s suggested average for a two-bedroom unit: $913. You only need to look at the most recent rental listings on Kijiji to see that most two-bedrooms are going for closer to $1,100 — with or without utilities.

Another factor is that the report looks only at what renters are actually paying for their homes, not what is being advertised.

“Anything that’s just come onto the market or is newer is likely to be higher right now, especially with the demand being higher in the Vernon area,” Pardy says.

In spite of its limitations, the report certainly has merit. For one thing, its methodology has remained consistent over a number of years, which is helpful in getting a sense of general trends.

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With housing issues top of mind for all Okanagan municipalities, it would be useful to have a measurement that encompasses all forms of rental housing.

“It’s something that is definitely on our minds,” Pardy says when asked about a more comprehensive study. “It’s something we are definitely working on.”

He says the corporation used to cold call people and conduct a household rent survey, but because it relied on landlines, which aren’t as frequently used anymore, it’s been put on hold.

“We’re going back and reviewing the methodology. Hopefully in the future we’ll have more rental data for the secondary market,” he says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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