Building boom churning out hundreds of new apartments in Abbotsford

Two thousand homes – one-third rental apartments – have been finished over the last 18 months

Renters look to be among the major beneficiaries of Abbotsford’s continued building boom.

Construction has completed on 2,085 homes – the bulk of them apartments – over the last year-and-a-half, the greatest 18-month tally over the 20 years for which Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) numbers are available. And there’s plenty more still being built, with more than 1,000 homes currently under construction.

Both tallies include hundreds of purpose-built rental buildings. And many of those slated for strata complexes may also be put up for rent, according to a Fraser Valley realtor.

Since last October, construction has finished on more than 700 rental apartment units, easily the largest such number in at least two decades in Abbotsford. And there are hundreds more to come, with about half of the 1,164 homes currently under construction destined for the rental apartment market. Some of those will take some time to come on the market, with developers having begun construction on around 200 of those units just since the beginning of August.

Housing completions

RELATED: As rents rise, Abbotsford families face hard decisions

But the effect of the rental building boom is likely to be significant. As of last October, the CMHC counted just 3,690 rental apartments in all of Abbotsford – and just 33 of those had three bedrooms or more. At the time, the city had just a one-per-cent vacancy rate. This year’s completions will boost the number of rental apartments well above 4,000.

Darin Germyn, a realtor and the president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, said that even units in new strata buildings may also end up being rented out.

“Statistically it’s going to increase the rental market usually quicker than anything,” he said. That’s in part because the rental sales market has declined and speculators who bought units in newly finished buildings who are now looking to sell may seek to wait until prices improve, rather than dropping their asking price. “You tend to see a lot of those units get rented out.”

Even with apartment prices dipping, new buildings continue to go up. Germyn said the financing of such projects affects the timing, and can prompt developers to proceed even if they can’t expect to make as much money as they did when the plans were first developed.

“They’ve got bills to pay just like anybody,” he said.

• • • •

As new apartments come on line, the single-family dwelling – long the most common type of housing in Abbotsford – accounts for barely 15 per cent of the city’s newly finished homes. (They make up about 20 per cent of those currently under construction). And most homes aren’t exactly in the price range of your average family. The average price for a new house in Abbotsford last month was $1.25 million.

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