TORONTO — Canadian renters have long lamented the increasing prices they see landlords request of tenants, but in July, those totals hit a level unseen in the country's history.
Data from Rentals.ca and research firm Urbanation released this week shows July's average asking rent hit $2,078, just shy of nine per cent above the same month last year.
The organizations behind the data said July's numbers also constitute the fastest pace of growth over the past three months and add the average asking rent rose 1.8 per cent between June and July, the most rapid month-over-month increase in the last eight months.
Compared to July 2021, the average asking rent increased by 21 per cent, adding $354 per month on average.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if the average asking rents next year in Ontario jumped to $3,500," said Douglas Kwan, the director of advocacy and legal services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, which defends tenant rights.
"There really doesn't seem to be any sign that this crisis is going to be abated or lessened."
Kwan routinely sees tenants shocked by the rent increases their landlords are proposing or the figures they see on ads. In one instance, a family of Syrian refugees began renting a home in Waterloo, Ont., for $2,000 a month. Their landlord approached them a year later seeking almost $4,000 a month instead.
"We're also hearing stories of people coming from all across Canada, some who sold their property to move to eastern Ontario (in a new building advertised as affordable), hoping to find a place to retire that was affordable," Kwan said.
"Well, they moved in there and they found out that their building was rent control exempt but found their rents would go up 20 per cent the following year."
While there are many factors, including a lack of affordable housing, pushing up asking rents, Rentals.ca and Urbanation attributed the July riseto a surge in post-secondary students signing leases before the fall, unprecedented levels of population growth and homebuyers holding off on purchases as interest rates have risen.
“Canada’s rental market is currently facing a perfect storm of factors driving rents to new highs,” said Shaun Hildebrand, president of Urbanation, in a news release.
“These include the peak season for lease activity, an open border policy for new residents, quickly rising incomes, and the worst ever home ownership affordability conditions.”
Realtors have reported some prospective buyers have stayed out of the housing market for the bulk of the year after being spooked by a succession of interest rate hikes that ate into their buying power.
The average price of a home reached $709,218 in June, up 6.7 per cent from a year earlier, the Canadian Real Estate Association said last month. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, it was $709,103, down 0.7 per cent from a year prior.
The organization believes the national average home price will edge down 0.2 per cent from 2022 to $702,409 this year before rising to $723,243 in 2024.
The thought of owning a place feels very out of reach for Keegan Colwell, a University of Calgary student and member of Acorn, a national organization made up of low- and moderate-income Canadians who are demanding housing policy reforms like more rent control.
Colwell has long rented an apartment with a roommate and typically sees his rent increase by about $30, but this year, it went up by just under $400.
"It makes everything a lot more difficult, like either larger loans or working more into my classes and just adds a lot of stress, (when) it's an already pretty tight budget," he said.
Fellow classmates are staring down similar situations, he said, with many swallowing high rents because they can't find anything cheaper and others opting to move back in with parents.
"Everyone is stuck," he said.
Their frustrations are borne out in the Rentals.ca and Urbanation numbers showing for the first time ever, average asking rents for purpose-built condominiums and apartments rose above $2,000 in July, reaching $2,008.
One-bedroom apartments alone saw a 13 per cent annual increase and a monthly rise of 2.5 per cent, bringing July's figure to $1,850.
The average asking rent for a two-bedroom unit sat at $2,191, followed by $2,413 for three-bedroom units. However, studios averaged $1,445.
Much of the growth in annual asking rents for purpose-built and condominium apartments came from Calgary, which retained its status as the region with the fastest rent growth among Canada's largest markets.
Montreal also saw significant acceleration in asking rents, but most other markets grew at a slower rate than has been the norm lately.
The Rentals.ca and Urbanation report also detected a rise in asking rents for those seeking roommates. In B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, asking rent for such accommodations rose by an average 16 per cent over the past year to $971.
Vancouver and Toronto landed the top spots for average asking rents for roommate rentals, with rents at $1,455 and $1,296 respectively.
Such numbers were no surprise to Kwan.
"We've seen ads, where not just rooms in a house are being rented out, but even half of a mattress, half of a bed is being rented out, or you have one room where there's two or three mattresses in there being rented out to tenants."
"It just really underscores the fact that people can't afford to live in our communities."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2023.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press