Low vacancy rates for Saint John apartments could spell trouble for low-income renters

If you're looking for a two-bedroom apartment in Saint John, you might have a hard time finding one.

New numbers from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show a lower vacancy rate in certain parts of Saint John, including uptown and the south end.

Kelvin Ndoro, an analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said the vacancy rate for a two-bedroom apartment in the city's south end is at 0.6 per cent.

"That's significantly low," Ndoro said, adding the vacancy rate for a two-bedroom apartment in the same area was 3.5 per cent last year.

The overall average vacancy rate for the city is 3.3 per cent, relatively stronger than other regions in the province, and a big change long term.

Seven years ago, the vacancy rate hovered around eight to 10 per cent, among the highest in the country for an urban centre.


Ndoro said the low vacancy rate is because more people are moving to Saint John, boosting the city's population and increasing demand for more apartments.

"This is accounting for the low vacancy rate we are seeing, especially for the south end."

The city of Saint John has also made development of the south end's residential properties a priority in recent years, including demolishing more run-down buildings.

A higher demand for apartments has in turn driven rent up, leading renters to look for apartments with more bedrooms.

"Units with more bedrooms allow individuals to room together and split rent costs," Ndoro said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

Trouble for low-income renters

A lower vacancy rate means demand is outpacing supply, which is good news for developers and landlords, Ndoro said, but not so great for renters.

"[More demand] also increases rent and affordability becomes an issue."

Ben Appleby is the housing team lead for Housing Alternatives Inc., a Saint John-based non-profit that helps people in need find suitable and affordable housing.

He said the high demand for affordable housing has serious implications for low income renters in Saint John.

"If the rent keeps jumping, they can't afford those units anymore. You have an increase in homelessness amongst a population that typically wasn't homeless before."

Rent prices have increased by four per cent since last year, Appleby said. The average price for a two bedroom apartment in Saint John in 2018 was $755, according to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

"If that continues to happen, it just continues to price people out of the market."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting