Yellowknife has some of the highest rental rates in the country, according to the latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The average rental price for a two bedroom apartment in Yellowknife is $1,744 a month, as of October 2019, the CMHC’s most recently available numbers.
That makes it the third most expensive rental market in the country, increasing 2.9 per cent compared to the previous year. Vancouver is slightly more expensive for two bedroom apartments at $1,748 a month. Iqaluit is the most expensive in Canada, with average monthly rent costing $2,736 a month.
But this is in part due to the extremely small size of Iqaluit’s rental housing stock. Only 13 per cent of the houses surveyed are private rental units, with most being government run staff housing or social housing.
Iqaluit’s small population also means among census metropolitan area’s — communities with more than 10,000 people — Yellowknife has the second highest rents in the country.
This comes as the demand for rental units surged in Yellowknife, according to the CMHC’s latest Northern Housing Report.
The vacancy rate in Yellowknife dropped from 5.2 per cent in 2018 to 4.2 per cent in 2019, showing a surge in demand for rental units.
“Having a vacancy rate of 4.2 per cent shows there are still units available to rent,” Christian Arkilley, an analyst with CMHC, said in a previous interview with MyYellowknifeNow.com.
“But the only problem with people occupying those units is their ability to afford them.”
CMHC’s Northern Housing report cited the 2019 NWT Community Survey released by the NWT Bureau of Statistics, found that more than a fifth 3,182 of the 14,760 dwellings in the N.W.T. were considered not affordable — CMHC defines affordable as being able to cover housing costs with 30 per cent of a person’s income.
Over a 10-year period from 2009 to 2019, the proportion of houses with affordability issues more than doubled in Yellowknife, from 14% in 2009 to 29% in 2019.
Adrian Bell, president of the NWT Realtors Association, said this affordability problem means Yellowknife likely won’t see a flood of renters.
“If you were faced with a skyrocketing housing market, yes, renting might seem more appealing, except we’ve got incredibly high rents,” said Bell. “So that might work if you’re in a suburb of Calgary, but doesn’t necessarily work here.”
The vacancy rates for rental units as a whole went down. Bachelor apartments continue to see a zero per cent vacancy rate, suggesting a surge in demand or a lack of supply.
Housing starts for apartments in Yellowknife are lower than any other housing type so far in 2020.