North Battleford seems be the anomaly in the Saskatchewan renters market, according to recent data. While other communities have lowered rent when experiencing an increase in vacancy rates, North Battleford has increased rent while vacancy rates have climbed to an all time high.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released its annual Rental Market Report this week. It only includes apartments and townhouses in communities with populations of over 10,000. BattlefordsNOW requested the history of vacancy rates and rent increases since 2000.
This year, North Battleford is experiencing its highest vacancy rate recorded in the last 17 years at 12.4 per cent. It is higher than the province’s rate of 9.3 percent and even higher than Canada with the national average sitting at three per cent.
The lowest rate for the city was in 2007 at 0.6 per cent and ever since North Battleford has seen a steady increase in vacancy rates. While other landlords in communities like Estevan and Weyburn are lowering rent after reporting some of their highest vacancy rates of the last two decades, North Battleford’s rent prices continues to increase. In the same time period since 2007, average rent prices have increased by 76 per cent in North Battleford.
Chanda Lockhart is the executive officer with the Saskatchewan Landlords Association and said supply and demand should dictate a decrease in rent as vacancy rises.
“It could just be they’re [landlords] not watching the trends,” Lockhart said. “Smaller landlords may not be watching the trends in the market and not seeing what’s actually happening and stabilizing. I would encourage them to take a look at this report and see what’s actually happening.”
Lockhart said even the province’s biggest city, Saskatoon, is feeling the vacancy burn and the data supports her claim. Last year that city saw its highest vacancy rate in over 17 years and in response the total rent dropped for the first time in that span.
Single family homes aren’t listed on the report, but Lockhart said rent for those units have dropped in Saskatoon as well. According to Lockhart, a two bedroom home with an unfinished basement rents for around $1,250, where two years ago she said the same home would go for at least $1,400. In comparison single floors of houses are being listed for over $1,100 in North Battleford.
Lockhart said the CMHC’s report may not tell the whole picture though. According to her, the data only reflects vacancy in the spring.
“According to local landlords I have spoken to, they are sitting around close to the three to four per cent vacancy mark right now. We see a lot of movement in the spring, whereas in the fall a lot of people move in and they stay there for the winter.”
Lockhart said since North Battleford has a college, students move back home in the spring which drives up the vacancy rate. She added due to the city’s location, many people will move further up north in the summer months, only to return in the fall.
North Battleford’s average rent per unit is below the provincial and national averages in every category; how both rent and vacancy are increasing at the same time remains an inconsistency though, especially while other communities are lowering rent in the same situation.
In a recent poll on battlefordsNOW, 71 per cent of the 430 people who responded said they felt rent was "way too expensive" in North Battleford.
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