38% of Metro Vancouver households now rent their housing

Apr 3 2023, 9:28 pm

Secured purpose-built rental housing construction in Metro Vancouver is at a 20-year high after more than a decade of historically low activity, according to a new report by Metro Vancouver Regional District.

In its newly released housing book, the regional district has provided an updated in-depth picture of the population demographics and housing activity changes in Metro Vancouver, outlining the region’s life signs in all things housing — comparing data between 2016 and 2021. Multiple data sources were compiled and analyzed to create the report, which was last completed in 2019.

There were 7,207 secured purpose-built rental housing completions in 2021, accounting for 28.6% of all housing completions, and the highest figure in two decades. Annual completions first reached the thousands for the first time in decades in 2012.

Secured purpose-built rental homes are units in buildings, often in entire buildings, that are specifically dedicated as rentals. They should not be confused with basement and laneway house suites or condominiums that are leased by homeowners.

As can be expected, Vancouver had the most secured purpose-built rental housing completions, reaching 3,009 units in 2021 and a five-year average of 2,565 units. In comparison, Surrey recorded 1,028 units in 2021 and a five-year average of 761 units, while Burnaby saw 511 units in 2021 and a five-year average of 438 units.

For the region as a whole, the five-year average and 10-year average for secured purpose-built rental housing completions were 6,111 units and 4,595 units, respectively.

For secured purpose-built rental housing, bachelor units increased the most (10.1%), followed by two-bedroom units (7.9%) and one-bedroom units (4.3%). Suitable secured rental housing for larger households continues to be a challenge, with only 27% of all secured rental units in the region having two or more bedrooms. Units with three or more bedrooms declined by 2.6%.

Secured purpose-built rental housing now accounts for 25.7% of the total number of homes in New Westminster, which is the highest proportion in the region. This is followed by 21.5% for North Vancouver City, 19.3% for Langley City, 18.5% for Vancouver, 16.3% for UBC and the University Endowment Lands, 12.4% for both West Vancouver and White Rock, and 10.8% for Burnaby. The proportion for the region’s second most populated city, Surrey, is just 3.2%.

In terms of rental housing starts, a total of 6,683 secured purpose-built rental units started construction in the region in 2021, accounting for 25.7% of all housing starts that year — the third-highest number of rental starts in 20 years, after the highs of 6,841 in 2016 and 6,727 in 2019. Rental housing starts reached an all-time low of 2.7% of all housing starts in 2006 and remained under 10% for the following five years.

Strata condominiums and townhouses have represented over half of all housing starts in the region since 2003, with the exception of 2009 due to the financial crisis, and peaked in 2019 at 18,372 units. In 2021, there were 16,267 condominium starts, representing 62.5% of all housing starts.

Moreover, multi-family housing completions in the region in 2021 totalled 21,931 units, accounting for 86.9% of total completions that year, with apartments making up for the highest share or 65.4% of total completions. This is followed by single-detached houses (13.1%), row houses (11.7%), secondary suites (7.4%), and semi-detached houses (2.4%).

North Vancouver District had the highest number of overall housing completions per 1,000 new residents between 2016 and 2021, with 1,199 units against population growth — followed by Vancouver at 1,042, Burnaby at 911, Coquitlam at 788, Pitt Meadows at 670, and Port Coquitlam at 628. Surrey recorded 404 housing completions per 1,000 new residents.

metro vancouver housing completions population growth

Metro Vancouver Regional District

Between 2016 and 2021, 62.4% of the net new occupied homes in the region were apartments, followed by 15.5% for rowhouses and townhouses, 14.2% for various other types, and 7.9% for single-detached houses. Vancouver added the most single-detached houses; Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, and Surrey added the most number of apartments; and Surrey, Langley Township, and Richmond added the largest number of rowhouses and townhouses.

As of 2021, 452,835 apartment units in existence represented 43.4% of the occupied housing stock across Metro Vancouver — up by 12.6% compared to 2016. Single-detached houses represented 27.7% of the housing stock in 2021, which is a 2.3% increase compared to 2016. Rowhouses and townhouses accounted for 10.2% of the total occupied supply in 2021, which is an increase of 13.4% since 2016.

Within Vancouver, apartments accounted for 62% of all occupied homes, followed by 19% for various other types, 15% for single-detached houses, and 4% for rowhouses and townhouses.

Across the region, the number of total households increased from 960,895 in 2016 to 1,043,320 in 2021, with the increase in renter households (13.2%) outpacing the growth in ownership households (5.9%).

There were 612,010 ownership households and 348,700 renter households in 2016, accounting for 64% and 36% of the total number of households. In contrast, in 2021, the proportion changed to 647,870 ownership households and 394,710 renter households — a shift to 62% owner and 38%, respectively.

metro vancouver dwelling growth population

Metro Vancouver Regional District

There were 283,915 households in Vancouver in 2016, including 133,165 ownership households (47%) and 150,750 renter households (53%). The proportion of renter households has since increased with housing price increases; in 2021, there were 305,335 households in Vancouver, including 138,845 ownership households (45%) and 166,490 renter households (55%).

In contrast, Surrey’s number of households increased from 169,965 in 2016 to 185,670 in 2021. Over the same period, the number of ownership households changed from 120,945 to 129,100, equivalent to 71% of the total tenure of 2016 and falling slightly to 69% in 2021, respectively. Renter households increased from 49,020 to 56,575, which represents a tenure proportion increase from 26% in 2016 to 30% in 2021.

As for differences in how housing costs are supported across the tenures across the region in 2016, 38% are ownership households with a mortgage, 25% are ownership households without a mortgage, 32% are renter households in market housing, and 5% are renter households in subsidized housing. In 2021, these proportions changed to 37% for ownership households with a mortgage, 25% for ownership households without a mortgage, 38% for renter households in market housing, and 4% for renter households in subsidized housing.

Compiled statistics also show Metro Vancouver’s population is aging rapidly, with the proportion of seniors increasing by 19% between 2016 and 2021. The number of children increased by only 2.7%.

Among’s Metro Vancouver’s major jurisdictions, the areas that saw the highest increases in seniors between 2016 and 2021 were UBC and the University Endowment Lands (37.1%), Port Coquitlam (29.3%), Coquitlam (25.2%), and Richmond (24.6%), while the areas with the highest increases in children were UBC and the University Endowment Lands (15.2%),  Langley City (12.9%), White Rock (12.5%), and New Westminster (12.4%).

As for the region’s largest cities, over the same period, the number of children and seniors increased by 0.1% and 15.5%, respectively, in Vancouver, and 1.6% and 19.4%, respectively, in Surrey.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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