In late 2015, Places4Students published one of our most widely circulated blogs, The Best Cities in Canada to Invest in Student Housing – Province by Province. Since then, the market has grown considerably as more purpose-built student housing has developed throughout Canada, inevitably changing the market landscape. We decided to revisit this topic and once again highlight some of the best cities in Canada to invest in student housing.
The methodology for determining the best cities was based on collecting CMHC data, college and university enrolment statistics, average real estate prices and other rental market data. Other criteria included student enrolment and projected growth, average rental rates, availability of on-campus housing, vacancy rates, number of academic institutions and more.
*The following data reflects vacancy, average rental, turnover and availability rates from 2015 to 2016. The average rental rates are based on two bedroom apartments.
Ontario – Peterborough:
Last year, Guelph held the number one spot. According to Alan Mason from TrilliumWest, the three key success factors for Guelph included: low vacancy rates, coupled with limited housing options for students, increased enrolment and an improving housing market. Although Guelph is still a top city for student housing investment this year, the number one spot goes to Peterborough. Peterborough has some very favourable rental market conditions:
· Vacancy rate dropped from 3.7% to 1.0%
· Average rental rate (2 bedroom) rose from $959/month to $980/month
· Turnover rate of 17.4% is the fourth lowest in Ontario
· Availability rate dropped from 5.1% to 2.2%
· The average home price in Peterborough hit a record high of $424,232 in 2017
Peterborough’s vacancy rate as of May 2017 was the lowest in 15 years, making it a highly competitive market for renters.
Peterborough is home to Trent University with a student population of 7,264 and Fleming College with a student population of 4,380. Fleming College also experienced record winter enrolment numbers and summer enrolment in 2017.
Honourable mention also goes to our hometown, St. Catharines/Niagara Region, which has a promising student market attracting investment attention recently. Keep an eye on Niagara, as the student rental market continues to flourish. Statistics for St. Catharines/Niagara Region are below:
· Vacancy rate dropped from 2.8% to 2.2%
· Average rental rate rose from $909/month to $958/month
· Turnover rate of 16.4% is the third lowest in Ontario
· Availability rates dropped from 4.8% to 3.4%
Alberta – No City to Highlight:
Alberta’s rental market is currently in a precarious position. While there is certainly demand for student housing, unfortunately, the rental market is struggling. Here are the rental market statistics for Calgary and Edmonton:
· Vacancy rate rose from 5.3% to 7.0% (expected to go higher)
· Average rental rate dropped from $1,332/month to $1,258/month
· Availability rates increased from 7.7% to 10.5%
· Turnover rates were high at 39.7%
· Vacancy rate rose from 4.2% to 7.1%
· Average rental rate dropped from $1,259/month to $1,229/month
· Availability rates increased from 6.1% to 8.9%
· Turnover rates were high at 35.8%
Calgary hit a 25-year record high rental vacancy rate as early as November of 2016 and the problem has only exacerbated.
Quebec – Montreal:
Montreal has held its spot and retains the title of Quebec’s best city to invest in student housing. With the only other city in contention being Quebec City, Montreal stood a good chance at holding the number one spot. Montreal is home to approximately two-thirds of the rental housing stock in Quebec and has relatively good market conditions, but low rents:
· Vacancy rates dropped from 4.0% to 3.9%
· Average rental rates rose from $760/month to $791/month
· Turnover rate is lowest in province at 17.3%
· Availability rate rests at 4.6%
· The average home price for Montreal in June 2017 was $362,207
Montreal also benefits from numerous local colleges and universities including Concordia University, McGill University, École de Technologie Supérieure, École Polytechnique de Montréal, HEC Montréal, Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, along with over a dozen colleges. The universities alone have a student population of at least 200,000, not including college students.
In addition to the large student population, the majority of universities and colleges have limited on-campus housing; some having no on-campus housing at all. Using Concordia as an example, the school boasts a population of roughly 45,000 – 50,000 students, but only has four residence halls which houses just over 1,000 students. McGill is also similar, despite having many more residence options. With a student body of roughly 40,000, McGill is only capable of providing just over 3,000 on-campus beds.
British Columbia - Vancouver:
Currently, Vancouver has Canada’s lowest vacancy rate with considerably high rental rates. With eight universities, Vancouver has a significant student population; the largest institution being the University of British Columbia with an enrolment of approximately 54,000 students. While UBC has roughly 12,000 on-campus housing spaces, it still has a considerable number of students living off-campus. In addition, there are several smaller university and college campuses, such as Vancouver Community College with 26,000 students and Langara College with 22,000 students.
As for the rental market, the numbers speak for themselves:
· Vacancy rate dropped from 0.8% to 0.7% (lowest in Canada)
· Average rental rate rose from $1,368/month to $1,450/month
· Availability rates remained static at 1.2%
· Turnover rates were very low at 15.8%
The market is extremely competitive and students have found themselves stuck in the Vancouver rental housing crunch. A similar scenario had played out the year prior, where UBC students were in a bind trying to find student housing according to CBC.
Nova Scotia – Halifax:
Halifax, which is home to six universities and a handful of colleges, maintained it’s number one spot and is likely to retain this position in Nova Scotia for the foreseeable future. The market has favourable conditions:
· Vacancy rates dropped from 3.4% to 2.6%
· Average rental rates rose from $1,048/month to $1,063/month
· Availability rates dropped from 4.5 to 3.7%
· The turnover rate was just below the provincial average at 24%
· The average home price in June 2017 was $299,847
Halifax is home to roughly 35,000 students during the school year and is expected to steadily increase. Dalhousie University by itself has over 18,800 students, accounting for roughly half of the student population. While Dalhousie has a considerable amount of on-campus beds at roughly 2,500, the other academic institutions have considerably less or no on-campus housing at all.
Saskatchewan – Regina:
Regina has dethroned Saskatoon from last year, largely due to changing market conditions. Saskatoon faced a major spike in vacancy and availability rates, meanwhile Regina faced only a very modest increase.
· Vacancy rates rose from 5.4 to 5.5%
· Average rental rates rose from $1,097/month to $1,109/month
· Availability rates rose from 6.1% to 7.1%
· Turnover rates were 35.1% compared to 39.3% in Saskatoon
· The average home price during the first quarter of 2017 was $335,135
While Regina does have a smaller student population than Saskatoon, the market conditions are largely what propelled Regina into the lead. The University of Regina has roughly 1,000 on-campus private bedrooms, but boasts a student population of roughly 13,000.
Prince Edward Island – Charlottetown:
Similar to last year, Charlottetown wins PEI by default; it is the only city in the province that has a major college or university – University of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown also has other small colleges including Holland College, Maritime Christian College and Prince of Wales College. Charlottetown has relatively low rental rates, when compared to other student housing cities, but still has favourable market conditions:
· Vacancy rate dropped from 4.2% to 1.7%
· Average rental rate rose from $830/month to $872/month
· Availability rates dropped from 4.6% to 2.8%
· The average home price in June 2017 was $219,235
It’s important to keep in mind that PEI is small, so good investment opportunities may be hard to come by. An advantage is the limited on-campus housing available at UPEI, according to it’s residence website.
Newfoundland – St. John’s:
While the St. John’s market isn’t exactly booming, it’s one of the only cities in Newfoundland with a major university and college. Memorial University was formerly the largest university in Atlantic Canada. According to Memorial’s residence website, there is only on-campus housing for approximately 2,000 students. As for the market conditions, they aren’t necessarily the best:
· Vacancy rates rose from 4.7% to 7.9%
· Average rental rate rose from $923/month to $958/month
· Availability rates rose from 6.1% to 8.4%
· The average home price during fourth quarter of 2016 was $334,782
New Brunswick – Moncton:
Moncton and Saint John are the only cities with a major college or university in the province, making it a head-to-head battle. Moncton marginally took the lead due to a higher student enrolment and moderately better rental market conditions:
· Vacancy rate dropped from 7.4% to 6.0%
· Average rental rates rose from $760/month to $798/month
· Availability rates dropped from 7.9% to 7.1%
· The average home price for June 2017 was $180,243
Universite de Moncton boasts a student population of about 4,200 students. Moncton is also home to Oulton College, which has a small student population sitting at around 1,000 students.
Manitoba – Winnipeg:
Winnipeg held onto the number one spot again this year; a relatively easy win with the only other city in the province for competition was Brandon. Winnipeg is home to five universities, as well as a few college campuses. The rental market shows favourable conditions:
· The vacancy rates dropped from 2.9% to 2.8%
· Average rental rate rose from $1,045/month to $1,068/month
· Availability rates decreased from 5.5% to 4.2%
· Turnover rates rested at 24.8%
· The average home price in June 2017 was $302,900
The student population for Winnipeg is relatively large. The University of Manitoba has roughly 30,000 students, which is matched by Red River College with approximately 30,000 students as well. Additionally, the University of Winnipeg has 9,338 students.
* Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut were not included, due to the fact there are no formally recognized public or private universities in these provinces.
SEE ALSO: The Best Cities in Canada to Invest In Student Housing - 2016 Edition
The Places4Students.com Team