So many new rental condos are now hitting the Toronto market that competition is mounting among landlords to keep rents in line and tenants from flocking to the newest glass-and-granite boxes in the sky.
The 23,240 condo leases signed in the past year outstripped both new and resale condo sales combined, says a new report from condo market research firm Urbanation.
Total rental listings were up 21 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone as the number of new projects registering in the GTA skyrocketed by 42 per cent.
While rents remain at record levels after five years of strong growth, all the new supply is already putting a damper on rental rate growth, which slowed to just 1.1 per cent in the first three months of 2015, an average of $2.37 per square foot.
That’s despite another record quarter for leasing activity: some 4,938 condo units were rented from January to the end of March, up 11 per cent over a year ago, Urbanation said in its state-of-the-rental market report released Wednesday.
“We’ve seen a modest reduction in some key sectors of the rental market that have experienced rapid rent growth over the last five years,” said Urbanation senior vice-president Shaun Hildebrand.
Vacancy rates, which have slumped to new lows of 1.1 per cent in the city core, are likely to slowly start climbing, the report notes. And the tenant search for the newest, shiniest thing means it may be tougher for landlords to hang onto tenants in even year-old or two-year-old buildings.
Already, says Urbanation, there’s been some weakening of rents in half of the six major submarkets in the city, especially the densely populated CityPlace area south of Front St. at Spadina.
Rents there have declined an average of 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, year over year, to an average of $2.56 cent per square foot, says Urbanation.
The downtown core, where much of the new building is focused, has seen rents decline an average of 2.1 per cent in the first quarter, year over year, to $2.81 per square foot.
Urbanation took a special look at Ice Condominiums in the South Core area, which a Maclean’s article claims is full of empty units.
Urbanation says it found that 91 per cent of nearly 300 units listed for rent over the last three quarters have been leased — a sign that rental demand remains “robust” in the city, even in the face of thousands of new condos coming on the market.
A stunning 22,500 units have been completed since last June, with thousands more on the way, many of which are likely to end up as rentals, says Urbanation.
Condos in the Harbourfront area saw rents climb 3.3 per cent in the first quarter, year over year, to an average of $2.53 per square foot, it says. The Entertainment District saw rents climb 2.1 per cent, to an average of $2.89 per square foot, and Mississauga City Centre rents were up 3 per cent, to an average of $2.04 per square foot.
For the first time, Urbanation also began tracking new, purpose-built rental units starting to trickle into the GTA market from eight projects, totalling 14 buildings, now under construction and set for completion by next year. They will represent a total of 2,458 new units built specifically as rental, rather than ownership, units.
Another 37 buildings with 9,207 units are currently proposed for the GTA.
While rents are comparable between the new purpose-built apartments ($2.38 per square foot) and rental condos ($2.37 per square foot), the unit sizes are considerably different. That, along with security of tenure in apartments, could make apartments a bigger draw over time.
The new rental units are averaging 800 square feet, compared to 756 square feet for new condos, says Urbanation.