Vacancy rates in seniors’ housing are rising in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador, according to CMHC’s 2021 Seniors’ Housing Survey. Overall, the vacancy rate for standard spaces — those that do not offer high-level care — grew by 7.0 percentage points and currently holds at 15.6 per cent.
Conducted between April and May 2021, the survey looked at seven regions across Canada, compiling data about private and non-private residences in which 50 per cent or more of occupants are above the age of 65. The data reveals an increase in supply across most provinces, while the number of residents has decreased or only moderately increased. The weak demand could reflect the reluctance of households to move into seniors’ residences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quebec again posted the highest capture rate in the country despite a decrease overall. 17 per cent of seniors aged 75 and older live in seniors’ housing in that province compared to only 5 to 10 per cent in others.
Here are key highlights from the survey:
“Independent living space” vacancies continued to increase from 5.1 per cent in 2020 to 12.5 per cent in 2021 with the largest increase in the Lower Mainland (14.7%). Vacancies on Vancouver Island increased from 3.4 per cent to 10.7 per cent with the Victoria region experiencing an increase of 13.9 per cent.
Higher priced independent living spaces had a larger vacancy increase as units over $5,000 increased from 4.9 per cent to 14.6 per cent. Conversely, the $1,900 to $2,399 segment only saw an increase of 1.9 percentage points (from 5.3 % to 7.2 %).
Average rents in B.C. across all unit types increased from $3,364 to $3,541 in 2021. In total, 877 spaces of mainly one-bedroom units were added, representing a 2.7 per cent increase in units.
The Albertan seniors’ housing standard spaces continued to see rising vacancies jumping from 15.1 per cent in 2020 to 26.8 per cent in 2021. The Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area continued to see the largest increase in vacancy rate (from 12.6% in to 27.6%).
Standard spaces below $2,499 saw the largest increase in vacancy rates. In the segment of $2,000 to $2,499, rent spaces increased from 16 per cent in 2020 to 31.2 per cent in 2021. Higher vacancy rates were observed in these spaces in the rest of Alberta, compared to Calgary and Edmonton.
Average rent for standard spaces in Alberta continued to increase this year in all centres. For example, the average rent saw Calgary reaching $4,140 and Edmonton reaching $3,047. Meanwhile, the number of total spaces grew by 11 per cent in total for the province, bringing the number of standard seniors’ housing units to 16,523 .
The vacancy rate for standard spaces increased by 7.4 percentage points to 22.4 per cent with the Regina Census Metropolitan Area recording the largest increase to 30.2 per cent. Saskatoon increased by only 4.6 percentage points (to 19.1%).
The average senior housing rent level in Saskatchewan remained relatively stable at $3,116, compared to $3,105 last year. In terms of units added, most of the net changes in senior spaces were located in Regina where the area had an increase of 220 units, bringing the total number of spaces to 2,120.
Vacancy rates increased for all unit types throughout the province of Manitoba, with the provincial vacancy rate increasing by 6.0 percentage points to 8.7 per cent. Vacancies in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area were 8.2 per cent, while outside the city, vacancies were at 12.1 per cent.
Average rents for standard units remained stable — $2,844 in 2021 compared to $2,849 in 2020. Meanwhile, seniors’ housing supply increased marginally this year with Winnipeg adding 31 net spaces to bring the city’s total to 4,405 and the province’s total to 5,080.
The vacancy rate for standard spaces in Ontario increased to 19.6 per cent in 2021, up from 11.0 per cent in 2020. The vacancy rate increased across all unit types. Demand for total spaces in Ontario’s seniors’ residences declined, while the total supply of seniors’ housing increased by 3.8 per cent.
The average rent for a standard space increased by 3.5 per cent to $3,999. Only 5.0 per cent of Ontario’s seniors aged 75 and over currently live in seniors’ residences, representing a lower capture rate than the 2020 proportion of 5.5 per cent.
The vacancy rate rose to a peak of 12.8 per cent in 2021, up from 6.9 per cent in 2020 for standard spaces. The average rent for standard spaces was $1,922 in 2021, compared to $3,652 for heavy-care spaces. An increase in rents for standard spaces has been registered in most regions with an average increase of 4.2 per cent overall. The highest average rent for standard spaces is in Gatineau at $2,287.
The total number of spaces in Atlantic Canada grew 5.7 per cent to 10,599 units in 2021. This was primarily due to growth in Halifax where there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of units over the year.
A decline in vacancies in Newfoundland and Labrador (from 22.6% to 17.5%) came against increases in vacancies across the other three Atlantic Provinces. Despite the decline, Newfoundland and Labrador still maintained the highest vacancy rate in the region. The increase in vacancies were concentrated in spaces with rents of $3,000 and more, with the biggest change in spaces with rents between $3,000 and $3,499.
Correction notice: The original version of this article posted July 7, 2021, contained inaccurate statistics. The article and corresponding statistics were corrected and updated on July 8, 2021. For more information, please visit 2021 Seniors Housing Survey results are in | CMHC (cmhc-schl.gc.ca).