Winnipeg Renters Should Welcome New Condo Developments

Blog, Commentary, Housing Affordability, Manitoba, Steve Lafleur

The Corydon Avenue BIZ announced today that a new condo development containing 125 units scattered throughout 13 buildings in the Corydon/Osborne area is in the works. Predictably, knee jerk condo opponents are lamenting that new condo developments do nothing for the average renter. As it happens, they do.

New condo units can attract financially stable renters who want to mix the stability of home-ownership with the downtown apartment lifestyle. And where will many of these people be moving from? Existing rental units. Given the acute shortage of rental units in Winnipeg, this won’t have a massive city-wide impact. But 125 units could have a measurable, if small, impact on the rental market within the Osborne/Corydon area.

Anecdotally, when I was searching for a rental unit this fall (I was exclusively willing to rent in or adjacent to Osborne Village) there were a total of three units in the 1200+ square feet range that were widely advertised. One of the three was priced in excess of $2200/month. Were there a significant number of condo units meeting my specifications available, I’d have had more leverage to bargain for a lower price. The fact that I’m not even considering buying would not have been relevant. Many landlords would have room to lower their rates if there was more competition — and they wouldn’t have much choice. Discouraging new developments is tantamount to defending their margins.

So, instead of scoffing at every single development that isn’t targeted specifically at low income renters, renters should cheer on just about any new condo developments. A lack of new apartment and condo construction is what has prevented Winnipeg from adapting to population growth in the first place (and, yes, rent control is part of the problem).  It’s simple supply and demand.