Saskatoon has become a key and growing market for residential rental company Avenue Living Communities with potential for further growth in its portfolio.
Mark Nixdorf, Senior Vice President of Residential Operations for Avenue Living Communities, says the company has just over 1,000 units in Saskatoon. The city is second largest portfolio out of all the company’s markets across the Prairies. Edmonton is first with about 1,300 units.
“It’s a large market for us,” says Nixdorf. “We’re continuing to look for opportunities in Saskatoon, and we’ve recently acquired nearly 280 units in the city. Our portfolio there continues to grow.”
“Right now, we have over 30 buildings in Saskatoon. Within the last two years we’ve purposely targeted Saskatoon. It’s a very stable market for rent, for rental pricing and for occupancy.”
Nixdorf says Avenue Living’s occupancy rate in Saskatoon has increased over the last year, now sitting at over 90 per cent for units that are available.
“It’s been in the top three markets for us in terms of increased occupancy. It’s been growing steadily in the right direction.”
One of the key drivers of the market has been steady employment in the Saskatchewan city. It doesn’t seem to have been as affected by the recession as some of the rural Saskatchewan markets. The Saskatoon population is stabilizing and growing. Unemployment rates are among some of the best in Western Canada.
“Those are all good signs for us. We want to continue to grow,” adds Nixdorf. “We are focused on acquiring more properties. It’s all opportunity based. It’s not a wait-and-see approach. It’s something we are aggressively pursuing with our broker relationships, continuously looking at interesting properties in that market.”
The confidence in the market is buoyed by some recent economic data by the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA). For the second quarter of the year, the organization gave the Saskatoon region a B- rating as economic indicators showed continued stability in the local economy.
While employment remains fairly flat, unemployment has stayed near the six per cent mark, falling from recent years of higher rates, says the organization’s most recent report.
Compared to the last quarter, the Conference Board of Canada has raised GDP growth projections for 2019 from 1.9 per cent to 2.2 per cent, it says.
Population for the Saskatoon census metropolitan area was 328,245 as of the second quarter.
“As Saskatoon’s population continues to grow, the city remains one of the youngest in Canada. Saskatoon’s median age is 35.8, low compared to the 41.2 national median age and the median age of the 10 biggest cities in Canada (the lowest being Brampton at 36.5),” says SREDA.
Avenue Living has built a portfolio of 8,800 residential rental units across Western Canada in just 13 years. The first property was the purchase in 2006 of 24 rental units in Brooks, Alberta for $3 million. With a focus on providing homes for the workforce housing population, Avenue Living, which has a diversified portfolio across 17 markets in the Prairies, expects to grow to more than 10,000 residential units across Western Canada by the end of this year.