Lethbridge Economy Firing On All Cylinders

Lethbridge is expected to lead Canadian mid-sized cities in economic growth both this year and the next, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report says Lethbridge’s economy has “fired on all cylinders over the past two years,” expanding by 5.8 per cent in 2017 and by 5.1 per cent in 2018.

“A moderate but steady economic growth of 2.6 per cent is expected in 2019 and 2.7 per cent in 2020,” says the board’s Mid-Sized Cities Outlook, which provides insight into the economic drivers across seven featured cities – Sault Ste. Marie, Brandon, Moose Jaw, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Chilliwack and Prince George.

Lethbridge’s real gross domestic product will expand by 2.6 per cent this year as growth in manufacturing, construction, and the primary and utilities sector slows but stays healthy, says the board.

“Strong employment growth will continue, with 2,700 new jobs created this year and next, following an 1,800-job leap last year. Population growth will remain solid at 1.9 per cent in both 2019 and 2020, matching the average annual gains of the past decade,” according to the report.

Dave Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Avenue Living Asset Management, says the Calgary-based residential rental company is looking for opportunities to continue to expand its portfolio in Alberta’s third largest city.

“Our portfolio in Lethbridge continues to perform and we are experiencing strong gains in average monthly rental rates on a year-over-year basis,” says Smith.

“Our investment team is looking for opportunities to acquire additional properties in West Lethbridge or nearby the post-secondary institutions.”

Smith says Lethbridge’s current rental vacancy rate has now come down below the lows set in 2013 and 2014.

Avenue Living owns 26 buildings with a total of 615 units in the southern Alberta city. The city has a total of about 3,900 rental units.

“Our team’s strategy is to continue focusing on the student rental market, which has been performing well for our portfolio,” says Smith, adding that about 350 of those units owned by Avenue Living in the city are student-focused.

The company recently added to its portfolio with the purchase of a 94-unit, four-building complex across the street from the University of Lethbridge.

“Outside of the student rental niche, we also found there’s an ability to upgrade other properties within our Lethbridge portfolio as the economy expands. We have started renovating select properties in Lethbridge, supported by strong renter demand for upgraded finishes. We’ve spent about $3.9 million executing this strategy,” says Smith.

In the past 13 years, Avenue Living has built its portfolio to 8,900 residential rental units across Western Canada. The company began in 2006 with the purchase of 24 rental units in Brooks, Alberta for $3 million. Avenue Living has properties in 17 markets in the Prairies and provides homes for the workforce housing population.