After four of the toughest months the economy has ever faced, it is my distinct pleasure to report that Québec’s multi-family apartment market more than held its own in the first half of 2020. In point of fact,
- First National’s new apartment financings in Québec increased 37% over last year
- Rent collection as reported by our clients averaged close to 95%
- CBRE’s Q2 Canadian Investment Report shows apartment cap rates were unchanged in Montréal and Québec City across both high rise and low rise A and B-quality properties
That said, we are seeing emerging challenges that I want to bring to your attention. The first is the end of the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which provided $2,000 a month to those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. This benefit is expected to end in October. This subsidy is being withdrawn on the basis that the economy is reopening and jobs are being restored – which is good – but it is possible that come November it may be more difficult to sustain rent receipts at the 90%+ level if unemployment remains high.
The second is slower migration growth in our population including reduced international student participation in colleges and universities this fall because of ongoing border restrictions. While the multi-residential market was undersupplied entering the pandemic, it is possible that in the prolonged absence of newcomers to the province, the demand-supply imbalance will disappear with a negative impact on vacancy and rental rates in the short term. We are already beginning to see a softening of rental rates especially for higher end rentals.
Preparing your portfolio for what’s next
In this uncertain environment, we believe it’s important to ready yourself for short-run challenges by ensuring you have sufficient liquidity in the event of cashflow disruptions. Liquidity is also advantageous as opportunities arise to acquire new properties at compelling valuations.
Should you wish to make a move, now is a great time to borrow due to very attractive interest rates and First National’s readiness to finance apartment ownership, construction and repositioning. On the construction side, CMHC has major incentives in place to build affordable rental units here in Québec. These incentives include the ability to finance up to 95% of construction costs, pay dramatically lower insurance premiums and term out the loan without lease-up requirements.
As the country’s largest apartment lender, First National has unparalleled insight into CMHC’s approval process for all types of financings – construction and term – and we will expertly navigate the system to get the best results for you. We can also bring conventional alternatives to the table when it makes sense.
COVID-19 is not behind us. But we continue to believe that multi-residential properties are the best assets to own in a downturn and so far that has been the case. To summarize, we are proud to work with you and very pleased that we can provide growing financial support to the Québec market during this volatile period. We stand ready to do more. Please contact me or any member of our team if we can help.