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Average rents increase 9.8% in Saint John

By Brad Perry Feb 28, 2024 | 6:02 PM

Housing affordability continues to be a challenge in Saint John, but city officials say they are working to address it.

As of Oct. 2023, average rents increased 9.8 per cent year-over-year to $1,027, according to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“That’s a rate higher than the national average and it’s something is remarkable but probably not unanticipated,” Andy Reid, the city’s housing manager, told growth committee members on Tuesday.

The CMHC survey looked at privately-initiated buildings with at least three rental units that have been on the market for at least three months.

Reid said the vacancy rate moved toward a “healthier level” of 2.4 per cent in 2023, up from 1.7 per cent the year before.

Despite the improvement, the housing manager said figures suggest there is still a need for additional housing in the city.

“The average rent for newer units is quite high, and the vacancy rate is quite low,” said Reid.

Of the 239 units that came online between July 2020 and June 2023, the vacancy rate was zero per cent and the average rent was $1,657.

A zero per cent vacancy rate suggests demand for new units is not currently being met, according to Reid.

He also noted that while Saint John has lower overall average rents in comparison to other major New Brunswick cities, the average rent for new rental stock is on par or higher.

“The bottom line is it will take time, but we’re committing to a number of substantial initiatives to monitor, to continue to pull at those municipal levers that we have at our disposal,” said Reid.

Staff continue to implement the 39 actions in the city’s affordable housing action plan and implement its housing accelerator fund action plan, he said.

The city is receiving nearly $9.2 million through the federal housing accelerator fund to help create 285 new homes over the next three years and spur the construction of more than 1,700 over the next decade.

Saint John will reform its zoning bylaw to allow for more density in key areas of the city, with up to four units per residential lot.

The city will also work on incentives to help boost construction, particularly affordable units, use public and underutilized lands for housing developments, and accelerate approval timelines for missing-middle units.

Reid said an increase in permits issued and continued housing starts outpacing completions indicate additional supply is forthcoming.

City staff issued permits for 479 units in 2023 and have already permitted 88 new units this year.