Rental vacancy rates hit all-time low

High demand pushes up average rents in both Mission and Abbotsford.

Rental vacancy rates in Abbotsford-Mission plunged to their lowest levels on record in 2015, according to a report by the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation.

The area’s vacancy rate dipped from 3.1 per cent in 2014 to below one per cent last year. At 0.8 per cent, the combined Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area had the third-lowest vacancy rate in the entire country, only slightly higher than in Victoria and Kelowna. Abbotsford itself had a vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent, while Mission’s rate was 3.2 per cent.

Those low rates pushed rents 2.9 per cent higher in 2015, substantially higher than the 0.9 per cent increase between 2013 and 2014. The recorded average increase is also higher than the allowable rent increase under the Residential Tenancy Act, which restricted landlords from raising rates more than 2.5 per cent in 2015.

In Abbotsford, the average rent for all types of purpose-built rental units was $787 per month.

Bachelor units commanded an average of $589/month, while one- and two-bedroom units rented for $712 and $864 per month, respectively.

The number of apartment rental units increased by a little more than 200 units between 2014 and 2015, with the vast majority of that increase coming in Abbotsford.

“Despite this increase in new units, the vacancy rate declined, indicating demand for rental accommodation outpaced supply,” the report said.

“The Abbotsford area, like much of the suburban area of Vancouver, is also becoming more desirable for its lower housing costs and strategic location. While most residents of Abbotsford City stay in the region to work, there are a number of commuting options, including the relatively new Port Mann Bridge, which helps to reduce commute time to the west side of the Lower Mainland.”

The University of the Fraser Valley also spurs demand for rental units, the report noted, as does a strong local economy drawing workers from other regions.

Rising home prices may also have played a factor, according to the report.