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A few thoughts on Toronto’s rental resurgence

Photograph Condos in Fog by Richard Gottardo on 500px

Condos in Fog by Richard Gottardo on 500px

Earlier today I attended a lunch and learn talking about the renewed interest in rental apartment development here in Toronto. Since this is a topic I’ve written about a few times here on Architect This City, I thought I would summarize some of my key takeaways from the panel discussion:

  • Market fundamentals are strong for purpose-built rental apartments. Vacancy is very low and demand will likely outstrip supply for many decades to come given the barriers to building (land availability, planning/approvals, and so on).
  • As of September 2014, CMHC reported 2,212 purpose-built rental units under construction in the Toronto region. And yet the annual demand for new rental housing is likely somewhere between 10,000 to 30,000 units (clearly some of this demand is being absorbed by condo rentals – the secondary rental market).
  • Millennials and retirees are seen as core markets for new rental apartments. Millennials want to live in urban centers and they like the flexibility that renting provides. Retirees want to know that they won’t be asked to move out because the owner wants to sell their condo unit.
  • It’s almost impossible to compete against condo developers when it comes to buying land (despite the next point). They (condo developers) will pay more. Therefore intensifying our “tower in a park” building stock is going to be a critical component of meeting rental demand in the region.
  • Part of what’s driving this interest in purpose-built rental (on the part of developers) is a softening condo market. So don’t be surprised when some developers flip back to condos when it makes financial sense to do so.

It was interesting to hear this last point. It’s something that has been on my mind, but for whatever reason wasn’t really being talked about by the industry. That’s not to say that I think the condo market is in trouble though. It has just become more balanced. And ultimately that’s probably a good thing.

Either way, I think that more rental and more housing options are a positive for the city and for consumers.

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