While home sales saw an immediate dip, Greater Victoria’s rental market may not feel the impact of COVID-19 for several months. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

COVID-19: Coming months will reveal fate of Greater Victoria’s rental market

Post-secondary school closures, unemployment could impact landlords, renters

The future of Greater Victoria’s rental market in a COVID-19 world is still uncertain, experts say.

With more than 130,000 jobs lost across the province and a more than a $1-billion hit to the region’s tourism industry, some renters have turned to the province’s rental support program to stay in their homes, while others are on the move.

And despite restart plans for post-secondary institutions, many fall 2020 courses are set to be delivered remotely.

Those are all factors that could shape the rental market in the coming months, according to Kaye Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS).

“I think there’s been a lot of movement in the rental market,” she said. “People have had to leave town, they’ve had to go back to their mom and dads’. There’s been quite a bit of change in the rental market.”

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria’s rental vacancy rate to rise in 2020: CMHC

The GVHS is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides affordable rental housing for low to moderate income families, seniors, working singles and adults with disabilities. Melliship expected to see more people coming to them for help since the pandemic started, but she said there’s only been a slight uptake.

“We haven’t even seen that yet, I think people are still sorting things out,” she said.

In December 2019 the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicted rising vacancy rates for Greater Victoria, anticipating a 1.6 per cent vacancy rate by October 2020.

That prediction was fueled by rising rates of new supply, with private projects coming on the market this year. But data from Used.ca, a Victoria-based buy and sell website, shows a dip in rental real estate postings. May 2019 saw 45,961 real estate postings while May 2020 saw 34,781.

And there were 19,233 more postings in April 2019 than in April 2020, when only 25,847 ads were posted.

In March, the province put a moratorium on evictions and rent increases, prompting LandlordBC to share its concerns on new evictions and evictions already underway. At that time, CEO David Hutniak said the policy could have “unintended repercussions for individual landlords and the industry as a whole.”

Hunter Boucher, director of operations for LandlordBC, says landlords, property managers and renters are all facing uncertainty.

“The biggest concern everyone has is simply not knowing what may happen next. There is no road map for what we’re going through,” he said. “We know for sure that there is going to be an impact, especially in communities such as Victoria.”

Boucher said the secondary market might feel the pinch – those who rent out garden suites, carriage homes or single-family houses for students. With a significant student population in Greater Victoria, those impacts will be felt across the board.

Still, that effect might not be fully realized until September, when students typically return for classes.

“While it sometimes feels like [COVID-19] has been going on forever, we aren’t that far into this at this point,” Boucher said. “So, I think it takes quite a bit longer to start seeing those trends.”

READ ALSO: Landlords respond to Horgan’s announcement about rental contributions, eviction freezes

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