Can’t find an apartment in Ottawa? Vacancy rate dips again in 2017

The City of Ottawa’s latest annual development report underscores how hard it is for renters to find a place to live in the nation’s capital.

The 2017 rental vacancy rate was 1.7 per cent, compared with three per cent in 2016.

The report, citing figures from Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., says the rental supply of apartments and rowhouse units only increased 0.9 per cent last year. The total number of those types of units was 69,573.

A separate and growing category is the number of condo units being rented. There was a seven-per-cent increase in the supply of condo rental units in 2017 and the overall percentage of condo units being rented out was 30.3 per cent, up from 20.7 per cent in 2012.

Condo rentals are becoming a big part of the supply of rental units, but as the report points out, they’re often limited to people who can afford to pay more.

The annual development report, which is a gold mine of information about local development and population trends, was published Tuesday ahead of a planning committee meeting next Tuesday.

The rental statistics reveal a downward trend in the local vacancy rate since 2015, but the rate historically has been lower, even dipping below 0.5 per cent in the early 1980s and in 2000.

The hardest rentals to find are one-bedroom apartments, which had a 1.4-per-cent vacancy rate in 2017. Bachelor units had a 1.6-per-cent vacancy rate and two-bedroom units had a 2.1-per-cent vacancy rate.

According to the report, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Ottawa in 2017 was $1,232, an increase of 2.6 per cent from 2016. There are rent controls in Ontario, with increases for existing tenants limited to 1.5 per cent in 2017, but landlords can charge whatever they want when a unit is empty.

It’s cheaper to live across the Ottawa River.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Gatineau last year was $782 and, according to the report, the cost gap between Gatineau and Ottawa for that type of unit was similar to the gap in 2016.

When it comes to Ottawa, renters in search of homes provided by the private sector might have the best luck finding a place in Nepean, where there was a vacancy rate of 3.6 per cent in 2016. The tightest rental market was in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South with a vacancy rate of 0.2 per cent.

As for businesses, the vacancy rate for commercial office space decreased to 11.4 per cent at the end of 2017 from 12.4 per cent in 2016. Industrial vacancy rate dipped to 6.3 per cent last year from 7.7 per cent in 2016, and the retail vacancy rate in 2017 was 5.5 per cent, compared to 5.3 per cent in 2016.

Overall household growth in Ottawa continues to be driven by the southern suburbs. The communities of Leitrim and Riverside South had the largest household growth rates in 2017 at 5.7 per cent and 5.1 per cent, respectively. The citywide growth rate for households was 1.6 per cent.

The city registered a big year for housing starts in 2017 at 6,849, the most annual starts since 2004 when there were 6,879.


2017 rental vacancy rates *



Alta Vista


Sandy Hill/Lowertown


Gloucester North/Orléans




City average


New Edinb./Manor Park/Overbrook




Chinatown/Hintonburg/Westboro N


Westboro S/Hampton Pk/Britannia




Hunt Club/South Keys


Western Ottawa Surrounding Areas


Eastern Ottawa Surrounding Areas


Glebe/Old Ottawa South


* Zones established the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC also provided the rental data for the annual development report.

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