Low vacancy rates have long been a defining feature for the renters’ markets in Toronto and Vancouver, but neither city is faring quite as badly as Charlottetown, which currently has the lowest vacancy rate of any major city in Canada.
The capital of Prince Edward Island had a vacancy rate of 0.2%, according to the latest report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which was published in November. That’s the lowest rate out of the 37 regions analyzed by the CMHC, which included Toronto and Vancouver, where the vacancy rates were 1.1% and 1%, respectively. Nationally, the rate averaged out to 2.4%.
That shortage has continued well into 2019. The reason for the rental unit shortage, says Charlottetown mayor Philip Brown, is that the population is growing faster than supply. For the past decade, factors like a growing number of university students on the island and general population growth — census data shows that Charlottetown’s population grew at a faster rate than any other region in Atlantic Canada between 2011 and 2016 — have increased competition for the city’s rental supplies.
Brown told CTV on Tuesday that the situation had reached “crisis” levels.
“It’s simple economics. If you have a high demand and low supply, you’re talking about a crisis,” he said.
In the past few years, the popularity of home or room sharing services like Airbnb have added even more pressure. As in other cities across Canada, homeowners in Charlottetown are increasingly renting out units on a short-term basis, effectively withholding them from long-term tenants.
In 2017, Vancouver introduced regulations for the city’s short-term rental market, limiting the number of days in a year where homeowners can treat their units as Airbnbs. Toronto followed suit shortly afterwards.
Brown said Charlottetown has introduced similar rules, including a bylaw that makes it illegal to rent out secondary apartments and garden-level suites to short-term tenants.
The city is also building an affordable housing complex with 60 units.
Still, Brown does not expect change to happen overnight.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said.