Old News: Regina’s Abysmal Vacancy Rate

I find it odd that over the last couple days both the L-P and CBC have been reporting our vacancy rate — 0.6 per cent, the lowest in the country — as though it’s a big revelation. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation numbers they’re referring to come from the recently-released spring provincial highlight report.

But everybody seems to have forgotten that CMHC’s 2011 fall survey for Regina — released back in December — showed exactly the same thing: that our vacancy rate is 0.6 per cent, the lowest in the nation.

And I seem to recall that fall report being covered back in the winter as though it was big news. Did everybody get drunk and forget?

But what is really aggravating is this bit from the L-P’s coverage:

The CMHC’s figures do not reflect private investors who have purchased condos and are renting out those units, said [Stu Niebergall, executive director of the Regina & Region Home Builders’ Association], adding, “the actual vacancy rate would be somewhat higher than is reported by CMHC.”

CMHC’s methodology also misses the “secondary market” in Regina, in which homeowners rent a room or two to tenants, said provincial Social Service Minister June Draude, whose portfolio includes housing.

That stuff about the vacancy rate not including the secondary/condo market is true — but only if you look at the spring report in a vacuum. Because the CMHC’s fall report does look at the secondary market. And what those numbers show is that the vacancy rate for condos is 0.6 per cent.* Exactly the same as the primary market. And as much as Niebergall and Draude might like it to be otherwise, you can’t add percentages.

The chart I’ve provided with this post, by the way, tracks Regina’s vacancy rates from 2000 to now. The blue line tracks the fall reports for Regina. Those have been extended reports that include the secondary market since I think about 2010, maybe earlier (I can’t remember exactly when the extended reports started and don’t have time to double check right now). The short brown line shows the spring summary reports which don’t include the secondary market and are, thus, less reliable. And the dotted line covers the period from 2000-2006 — which I don’t have reports for, I just have the 2000 number and thought I’d throw it in.

And in case you prefer numbers to infographics, here are the vacancy rates themselves for the years I have reports for:

2000 – 1.4
2006 – 3.3
2007 – 1.7
2008 Fall – 0.5
2009 Spring – 0.7
2009 Fall – 0.6
2010 Spring – 0.8
2010 Fall – 1.0
2011 Spring – 0.7
2011 Fall – 0.6
2012 Spring – 0.6

The big thing to take away from all this is Regina has had the lowest or near-lowest vacancy rate in the country since the fall of 2008. That’s nearly four years now. And that’s a long time. Longer than the current council’s term.

Also of note, Saskatoon, which is facing very similar growth pressures, currently has a vacancy rate of 3.1 per cent. That’s greater than the 3.0 per cent vacancy rate that the CMHC says you need to have a healthy rental market.

Gee, I wonder if Saskatoon’s city council has been pursuing the same hands-off, trust-the-market approach to housing that we have? Somehow, I think not.

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NOTE
* The vacancy rate for rented townhouses, btw, is zero per cent.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

9 thoughts on “Old News: Regina’s Abysmal Vacancy Rate”

  1. Maybe not, but it’s fun to try and see what happens.

    60/1000 + 60/1000 = 120/1000 or 1.2%, still well below the advised 3% after their desperate scrambling to frame the number more positively.

  2. Great Work as always Paul and P-Dog!

    Questions of the day:

    Should Regina mayoral hopeful Michael Fougere be permitted to remain President of the Saskatchewan Construction Association as a Regina Councillor? As mayor?

    Has this had an effect on affordable housing decisions and development initiatives in Regina? Have your say! #YQRvotes

    http://www.scaonline.ca/directors.php

    Also, as a side note: Where is Michael Fougere’s platform? #whereisfougere

    http://fougereformayor.com/platform/

    Respectfully,
    Marc

  3. That infographic did nothing for me. Quack. Quack. Quack. That’s all I heard. But those numbers. Wow. Regina needs to get its act together and start dealing with that vacancy rate.

  4. So true. Saskatoon took action years ago, and Mayor and Council in Regina have been explicitly clear about how housing “is a provincial responsibility”. Whatever way you toss it, it makes Saskatoon a much more attractive place in terms of quality of life. Its interesting to see the outcome of these different policy approaches a few years out All other arguments aside (and there are many – I digress) this ultimately has a big impact on the ability to draw and keep a labour force, and the economic potential of the City. Really shot themselves in the foot there, didn’t they?

  5. I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred per cent on your math work there, John.

    A 0.6 per cent vacancy rate in the primary market translates to about 66 vacant units out of 11,000 total units. (I’m rounding off, btw.)

    A 0.6 per cent vacancy rate in the condo market, meanwhile, means about 24 vacant units out of 4,000 units total.

    So, 90 vacant units out of a total market of 15,000 units gets you back to an overall vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent.

    Schmutzie: I think it’s from after, actually. But we’ve also had some new units come on the market. In other words, all the new stuff is either being snapped up immediately by new renters or offset by the units we’re losing to demolitions and such.

  6. The loss of old downtown/transition/etc. apartments and the location of new suburban apartments force people out of the downtown/off-downtown area, though. Which is annoying. Because high-density, centrally-located rental is a big part of successful urban revitalization.

  7. CMHC’s interim market analyst told me yesterday that Saskatoon hasn’t had the same level of employment increase in the last two years as Regina. That contributes to their relatively better standing.

  8. Pat: Interesting. I’d be curious to know how much Regina is outpacing Saskatoon on employment. Because population growth tells a different story.

    According to StatsCan, between 2006 to 2011, the population of Regina grew 7.71% (from 179,282 to 193,100) while Saskatoon grew 12.87% (from 202,408 to 222,189). And, between 2008 to 2011, the Regina Metropolitan Area grew 6.22% (from 205,900 to 218,700) while the Saskatoon Metropolitan Area grew 8.37% (251,000 to 272,000).

    I did read something about the unemployment rate dropping faster in Regina than it is in Saskatoon (between 2011 and 2012). So an increase in the level of employment in Regina might mean that more unemployed people living here are getting work and not that in-migration of labour is driving down the vacancy rate. Know what I mean? That it’s the resident population in Regina that’s making up the increase in the labour force. Maybe?

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