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Rent for a one-bedroom up 20 percent from last year 😢

Halifax apartment prices increase even though average rents across Canada are down.

By

AZIZA ASAT
  • aziza asat

The latest Canada-wide report from rental housing advertiser Rentals.ca bears the bad news everyone already knew–renting in Halifax is still a shit deal. 

The majority of Halifax units included in the Rentals.ca report are in downtown Halifax, the west end and Clayton Park, but the report does have data spanning the whole of HRM. Of those properties, the average one-bedroom was renting for $1,472 in January, compared to $1,220 in 2019–a whopping 20.7 percent increase. (Humble reminder that from 2015-2020, the price of a two-bedroom in Halifax increased 43 percent, and NS minimum wage only went up 15 percent.)

This increase is higher than the one reported in the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's rental housing market report, released in January. That report looked at the average price of rentals for all of Halifax Regional Municipality, and saw a 4.6 percent increase across all kinds of units from October 2019 and October 2020. 

But what’s wacky about these rising numbers in Halifax is that average rents on Rentals.ca went down across Canada from last year, 8.7 percent over all. Toronto saw a 21 percent drop from January 2019 to 2020, average prices went down eight percent in Ottawa, and Vancouver saw a five percent decrease. 

Most of these drops are explained by COVID-19. The pandemic meant there were fewer post secondary students looking for rental housing, and big decreases in immigration meant that newcomers, who are more likely to rent than to buy when they first arrive, weren’t putting as much pressure on the market. 

But why did Halifax see such wild spikes in prices when the rest of the country was trending downward? (Kitchener-Waterloo was the only other city in the report that saw rents increase, although at 19 percent it trails Halifax’s 20.7 increase.) It could be because apartments listed on Rentals.ca are only there if the unit is changing occupants. And the provincial government’s emergency relief measures, which were announced in November to protect renters from price gouging, only help renters who are staying in their homes. After an apartment becomes vacant, the landlord can hike the rent when it goes back on the market. 

The Rentals.ca report doesn’t speculate about whether this loophole in the temporary regulations is creating an price bubble in Halifax. But what if it’s leading landlords to jack the rent extra-high when tenants are changing, knowing they won’t be able to raise it more than two percent as long as the tenant and the state of emergency stay put? Whatever bubbles were happening in other cities across the country–other than Kitchener–seem have been popped by the pandemic.

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