As we creep closer to the one-year anniversary of Canada’s first COVID-19 lockdowns, the country’s major rental markets continue to see prices fall as rental supply climbs and empowered renters negotiate with landlords.

New figures released this week by rental site Padmapper suggest that February has been no exception, with rent prices for one-bedroom units in Toronto and Vancouver hitting a four-year low.

Prices for one-bedroom units in Vancouver declined by 0.5 percent monthly to $1,940, the lowest recorded price point since April 2017. Meanwhile, the city’s two-bedroom listings dipped by 0.8 percent on a monthly basis, down to $2,630. Year-to-year, rents for one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments have dropped by 9.8 percent and 12 percent in Vancouver. Despite the declines, Vancouver continued to hold its first-place position as the most expensive city to lease an apartment in Canada this month.

Following closely behind, Toronto one-bedroom prices fell by 3.3 percent on a monthly basis to $1,770. Prices for one-bedroom listings have not been this low in the city since February 2017, when the average price was $1,700, the report explains. This price drop was slightly less pronounced than Toronto’s two-bedroom listings, which saw price declines of 5.3 percent monthly to $2,340. On a year-to-year basis, one-bedroom rents in the city are down 23 percent while two-bedrooms declined by 21.5 percent, the report noted.

In its findings, Padmapper attributed renter migration from Toronto and Vancouver as one of the driving forces of the continued price declines that have been commonplace in those two cities since the pandemic began.

“It seems the continuous rent price declines from renter migration out of Canada’s two most expensive rental markets have not stopped, even as COVID-19 vaccines have begun to roll out,” said the report.

In a sign that rental activity was slowing across much of the country, double-digit price increases were less frequently observed among smaller, less expensive cities too. Only four cities tracked by Padmapper recorded price increases in that range this month. Throughout 2020, renter migration away from large urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver drove prices higher in smaller, nearby cities where renters were relocating to.

Padmapper said that these dialled back rent price increases in those smaller markets were likely a result of a winter season lull in rental activity.