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Letter about CMHC's yearly vacancy rate and average rent statistics

This is a copy of a letter I sent to CMHC, to which they have never responded

Lucia Su, Director
Market Analysis Centre
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
P.O. Box 9606, Stn. T,
Aviation Parkway,
Ottawa ON K1G 6B5

November 19, 2002

Dear Lucia Su:

I have some concerns regarding CMHC's annual Rental Housing Market Survey.

The first concern is regarding the methodology used by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., where it is my understanding your enumerators identify themselves as representatives of your federal agency, and ask landlords or building superintendents to volunteer the rents and vacancy rates.

Are there any "spot checks" to verify the information being given is usually correct?

I am concerned that some landlords may tend to understate the rents or overstate the vacancy rates. They may do that out of concern that the information may be used by other government bodies such as the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, even if CMHC staff inform them it is only used for statistical purposes. It is also possible that some landlords could be trying to influence the numbers at the behest of their lobby organizations.

My other concern is with the CMHC press release about the annual survey which provides only the average rents and vacancy rates, while not providing the average rents of the vacant units. I believe the average rents for vacant units have become necessary, because Vacancy Decontrol, where landlords may charge any amount they want with no regulatory limits, creates anomalies in the figures. Vacancy Decontrol has existed in Ontario since 1998, and could come to B.C. in the near future. It causes rents on vacant units to be far above the average rents on all apartments. By at least providing the average rents for the vacant units, it would give everybody an idea of the affordability of those units.

A more in-depth alternative to providing the average rents for vacant units would be a full breakdown in the percentages of vacant units both by price ranges and by unit size.

I believe these issues need to be examined to verify the accuracy of the survey itself, and to make it more useful to the public and policy makers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Robert B. Levitt
xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Apt. xxx
Toronto, Ontario Mxx xxx

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