Seniors’ residences vacancies rise slightly: CMHC

According to the CMHC 2021 Seniors’ Housing Survey*, which collects data including rents, vacancy rates and related information**, vacancy rates in seniors’ residences are on the rise in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador. Overall, the vacancy rate for standard spaces grew by 7.0 percentage points and now stands at 15.6%. Some provinces reached noteworthy levels such as:

  • Ontario (19.6%)
  • Alberta (26.8%)
  • Saskatchewan (22.4%)

While we observed an increase in supply across most provinces, the number of residents has decreased or only moderately increased. This has led to higher vacancy rates. The weak demand could be the reluctance of households to move into seniors’ residences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec again posted the highest capture rate in the country, despite a decrease. 17% of seniors aged 75 and older lived in seniors’ residences in 2021. In other provinces across the country, this proportion varied between only 5.0% and 10%.

British Columbia
  • B.C. independent living spaces vacancies continued to increase from 5.1% to 12.5%. The largest increase was in the Lower Mainland. It went from 4.7% in 2020 to 14.7% in 2021.
  • Within the Lower Mainland, vacancies increased from 1.6% in 2020 to 13.9% in 2021 in the Fraser East Centre. Fraser East Centre is comprised of Abbotsford/Mission and Chilliwack/Hope/Agassiz.
  • Vacancies on Vancouver Island increased from 3.4% to 10.7%.
  • The Victoria region saw an increase from 2.1% to 13.9% vacancy.
  • Higher priced independent living spaces had a larger vacancy increase as units over $5,000 increased from 4.9% to 14.6%. Conversely, the $1,900 to $2,399 segment only saw an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 5.3% to 7.2%.
  • Average rents in B.C. across all unit types increased from $3,364 to $3,541 in 2021.
  • 877 spaces of mainly one-bedroom units were added in B.C. in 2021. This represents a 2.7% increase in total units. The majority of the new additions are in the Lower Mainland.
Alberta
  • The Albertan seniors’ housing standard spaces continued to see rising vacancies as the vacancy rate rose from 15.1% in 2020 to 26.8%. The Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area continued to see the largest increase in vacancy rate from 12.6% in 2020 to 27.6% in 2021.
  • Standard spaces below $2,499 saw the largest increase in vacancy rates. In the segment of $2,000 to $2,499, rent spaces increased from 16% in 2020 to 31.2% in 2021. Higher vacancy rates were observed in these spaces in the rest of Alberta, compared to Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Average rent for standard spaces in Alberta continued to increase this year in all centres. For example, the average rent saw Calgary reaching $4,140 and Edmonton reaching $3,047.
  • The number of total spaces grew by 11% in the province this year. There are now 16,523 units.
    • Calgary Census Metropolitan Area increased 9.7% to 5,809.
    • Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area increased 8.6% to 6,158.
Saskatchewan
  • The vacancy rate for standard spaces increased by 7.4 percentage points to 22.4%. The largest increase was in the one-bedroom segment, where the vacancy rate increased 10.5 percentage points to 25.2%.
  • The Regina Census Metropolitan Area recorded the largest increase in vacancy rate of 14 percentage points to 30.2%. Saskatoon increased by only 4.6 percentage points to 19.1%.
  • The average senior housing rent level in Saskatchewan remained relatively stable at $3,116, compared to $3,105 last year.
  • The total number of vacancy spaces increased slightly this year by 1.7% to 8,323 spaces. Most of this increase is found in the one-bedroom segment, where 166 net spaces were added, representing a 4.7% increase. Most of the net changes in senior spaces were located in the Regina Census Metropolitan Area. This area had an increase of 220 units to 2,120 total spaces.
Manitoba
  • Vacancy rates increased for all unit types throughout the province, with the provincial vacancy rate increasing by 6.0 percentage points to 8.7%. Vacancies in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area were 8.2%, while outside of Winnipeg vacancies were at 12.1%.
  • Average rents in standard space rent remained stable in Manitoba — $2,844 in 2021 compared to $2,849 in 2020. Outside of the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area, average rents of bachelor/studio units decreased by 14.3 percentage points compared to the previous year. Within Winnipeg, rents were relatively stable across all unit types.
  • Senior housing supply increased marginally this year at 5,080 total spaces.
    • Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area added 31 net spaces to 4,405.
    • Rest of Manitoba added six net spaces to 675.
Ontario
  • The vacancy rate for standard spaces increased to 19.6% in 2021. This is up from 11.0% in 2020. The vacancy rate increased across all unit types. The highest rate of 24.8% registered for ward/semi-private spaces.
  • The vacancy rate for total spaces increased to 19.1%, an increase of over 8.0 percentage points compared to 2020.
  • Demand for total spaces in Ontario’s seniors’ residences declined, while the total supply of seniors’ housing increased by 3.8%.
  • The average rent for a standard space increased by 3.5% to $3,999.
  • Only 5.0% of Ontario’s seniors aged 75 and over lived in seniors’ residences in 2021, representing a lower capture rate than the 2020 proportion of 5.5%.
Quebec
  • The vacancy rate rose to a peak of 12.8% in 2021, up from 6.9% in 2020 for standard spaces.
  • The change in vacancy rates is consistent across Quebec with increases in almost all regions. Among metropolitan areas, vacancy rates hovered between 11.2% (Trois-Rivières) and 16.0% (Gatineau), up sharply from 2020.
  • The average rent for standard spaces was $1,922 in 2021, compared to $3,653 for heavy-care spaces. An increase in rents for standard spaces has been registered in most regions with an average increase of 4.2% overall. The highest average rent for standard spaces is in Gatineau at $2,287.
  • Standard spaces in high price ranges had the largest vacancy increase as units between $2,001 and $2,250 recorded an increase of 8.9 percentage point from 5.6% to 14.5%.
  • 17% of Quebec’s seniors aged 75 and over lived in seniors’ residences in 2021, a small decrease from 18.4% in 2020.
Atlantic Canada
  • The total number of spaces in Atlantic Canada grew 5.7% to 10,599 in 2021. This was primarily due to growth in Halifax where there was a 27% increase in the number of units over the year.
  • The average rent in the region was up 1.0% to 2,878 in 2021. The biggest increase showed 2-bedroom units were up 8.0%. In contrast, ward/ semi-private average rents were down 2.0%.
  • The vacancy rate for standard spaces increased to 11.9% in 2021 from 10.7% in 2020. A decline in vacancies in Newfoundland and Labrador from 22.6% to 17.5% came against increases in vacancies across the other three Atlantic Provinces. Despite the decline, Newfoundland and Labrador still maintained the highest vacancy rate in the region with next highest rate, 10.1% in New Brunswick.
  • Vacancy rates increased for all types of units except the ward/semi-private units where vacancies declined to 21.9% from 33.8% the previous year.
  • The increase in vacancies were concentrated in spaces with rents of $3,000 and more with the biggest change in spaces with rents between $3,000 and $3,499.

*The original version of this article contained inaccurate statistics. The article and corresponding statistics were corrected and updated on July 8, 2021.

**The survey was conducted in April and May, 2021. The private and non-private residences must have at least 50% of its residents aged 65 or older. The survey looked at standard spaces. That is where the resident doesn’t receive high-level care or isn’t required to pay an extra amount to receive high-level care.

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