The easing of public health restrictions in the months ahead could put even more pressure on Halifax's already stretched housing and rental markets, says a senior analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Halifax's rental vacancy rate nearly doubled in 2020 to 1.9 per cent from a record-low one per cent in 2019, but Tad Mangwengwende cautions it doesn't paint the full picture.
"That's in a period where we didn't have international students, we didn't have international migrants, so when we look at what happens in a more normal environment, when those people come, they will again need to be housed somewhere," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday.
Add university students returning to in-person classes in the mix and this will further drive up demand, says Mangwengwende.
He said Halifax will need to increase the supply of both market and rental housing to account for growing demand.
"We've had higher interprovincial migration, we have elevated levels of intraprovincial migration — so we still have people moving from rural to urban areas — and we also have higher retention rates for immigrants," Mangwengwende said.
While the construction of new housing has ramped up, it's been hard to keep the pace going, he said. Mangwengwende cited a shortage of qualified tradespeople as one challenge that will need to be overcome.
Mangwengwende expects people's ability to work remotely will also have an impact on housing in the years ahead.
"What happens if people in Toronto can work in Toronto but live somewhere like Halifax?" he said.
"This is what we would say [is an] emerging consideration, because it's not something presently in the market, but something that we have to consider."
It wasn't that long ago that the province was desperate to find ways to keep people here and attract newcomers.
Data going back 10 years or so shows Nova Scotia was losing, on average, about 500 people a year, Mangwengwende said.
"Over the last five years, we're looking at on average 1,500 net coming here from other parts of the country," he said.
"As you can imagine, this is quite a significant change in fortunes, and anecdotally, people would have known this. For a long time people were moving out West and now we're seeing the opposite, people coming here and sticking around."
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