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No relief in sight for Metro Vancouver’s industrial land shortage: Avison Young

Long-term supply is a ‘serious concern’ for the region, which needs 7.7M square feet of new space
Industrial land in Vancouver. The lack of available supply remains a top issue for industrial real estate.

The squeeze on industrial land continues to plague Metro Vancouver with the region’s low vacancy rate and dwindling supply holding strong in the second quarter of 2023.

The region’s vacancy rate for industrial land sat at one per cent between April and June, according to a July 19 report from commercial real estate firm Avison Young (Canada) Inc. The vacancy rate for subleases on such lands sat at 0.8 per cent during that same period.

“Despite the volatility in the market and changes in financing, we still have no new industrial lands that are likely to transact, and long-term supply remains a serious concern for the overall Metro Vancouver industrial landscape,” said Ryan Kerr, principal at Avison Young, in an email to Glacier Media.

A healthy industrial market typically sits somewhere in the 4.5 to seven per cent vacancy range, he said.

A July 20 report from Jones Lang LaSalle Real Estate Services Inc. (JLL) pegged the region’s vacancy rate for industrial land at 1.3 per cent.

A lack of available land and rising values have been top issues for the industrial market so far this year. Industrial land prices surged between August 2020 and June 2022 amid ultra-low interest rates and increased demand tied to the sector.

The average rent per square foot increased eight per cent to $21.95 in the second quarter of 2023 compared with the same period a year ago, according to Avison Young’s report.

When it comes to new supply, Metro Vancouver currently has 7.1 million square feet under construction across 42 projects. Roughly 80 per cent of the space under construction has been pre-leased or pre-sold, according to Kerr.

The region would need 7.7 million square feet of new or existing vacant inventory to achieve a “healthy market.” However, three to five million square feet is typically built within a year. Over the last decade, sales have outpaced new supply, Kerr said.

BIV reported at the beginning of 2023 there was an increasing need for large bay space in new industrial construction.

Among the 1.6 million square feet of industrial strata currently being built, 20 per cent is dedicated to large bay space. Small bay space accounts for most of the industrial strata construction at 74 per cent, according to the Avison Young report.

When asked if what is being built is matching up to what is needed in the market, Kerr said “simply, no.”

Going forward, Kerr believes industrial investment will continue throughout the year as the asset remains “very liquid” in Metro Vancouver.

“By the end of the year, I think there will be some good transaction volume in the investment market. Leasing activity has recently calmed to a more traditional steady pace, and we are seeing some large industrial lease deals get done over the summer,” he said.

Notable transactions for the second quarter include SmartShop Asset Management LLC’s purchase of a 90,776-square-foot self-storage facility at 1615 Franklin St. in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, A2Z Capital acquired 79,652 square feet through the purchase of a warehouse at 9388 North Fraser Crescent in Burnaby, according to JLL.

 “We believe activity in all industrial sectors (land, strata, leasing, etc.) should pick back up in September after everyone takes the much-needed holiday over the summer months,” Kerr said.