Data collected by Jens von Bergmann shows Victoria has one of the greatest rent disparities between occupied and unoccupied units in Canada. Image: Jens von Bergmann/Twitter:@vb_jens

Greater Victoria has Canada’s sixth-highest ‘moving penalty’

Disparity between vacant/occupied units incentivizes renovictions and reduces mobility, researcher says

Swapping apartments in Greater Victoria comes with a high price tag.

That means if you are looking to move to a different apartment building in your town, you’ll likely have to pay hundreds of dollars more.

The reason is relatively simple: landlords are only allowed to raise rents on current tenants by a few percentage points every year, but when someone moves away, a unit can be rented at whatever price the market will bear.

Jens von Bergmann, a Vancouver researcher who collected the figures, has labelled the disparity the “moving penalty.” He says a high disparity between rents in occupied units and unoccupied units has several negative consequences.

READ ALSO: Victoria, Abbotsford record biggest jumps in rent prices nationwide: report

“It reduces renter mobility, so renters may be less inclined to downsize or move for a new job,” von Bergmann writes on his blog. “And it incentivizes landlords to evict tenants to bring rents in rent controlled units up to market rents.”

The figures come from the annual rental market survey conducted by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Von Bergmann first looked at the rental penalty at the end of 2018, when he found Victoria had the highest disparity in the country. The city was the only one in the country with a 20 per cent gap between occupied and unoccupied units.

Twelve months later, British Columbia’s three other census metropolitan areas – along with Toronto and Quebec – have all passed that 20 per cent mark.

READ ALSO: Anonymous Good Samaritan pays outstanding rent for Sidney woman facing eviction

At the top of the heap in 2019 was Kelowna, where average rents of occupied units was $1,213, but vacant units were being rented for $1,546 on average. That amounts to a 27 per cent gap.

Victoria had the sixth-highest relative gap, at 20 per cent, with Vancouver at 21 per cent and Abbotsford-Mission at 23 per cent.

Vacant units aren’t always more expensive – if you live outside of British Columbia. In a little less than half of Canadian cities, vacant units were actually cheaper than those occupied. In Halifax and Trois-Riviéres, for instance, unoccupied units were, on average, 10 per cent cheaper than those with tenants.

Von Bergmann notes on his website that the mix of vacant units and the mix of occupied units may vary, so there is some wiggle-room in the comparison. But, he said, the figures still show the penalty paid in British Columbia by renters wishing to move – and the incentive for building owners to evict tenants, renovate units, and rent them out at higher rates.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
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