Why Halifax Is a City on the Rise

February 8, 2022 3 Minute Read

Why Halifax Is a City on the Rise

Halifax is known for its fresh seafood, historic charm, and friendly locals. But the seaside city is rapidly emerging as a hub for something else: tech talent.

The Maritime municipality nabbed seventh place on the list of the “Next 25” up-and-coming North American markets in CBRE’s 2021 Scoring Tech Talent report. In 2020, the industry employed 14,700 people, representing five-year job growth of 24%.

Halifax’s status as an emerging tech hub was given a boost when Adaptiiv Medical Technologies, a homegrown software company, recently leased 8,870 sq. ft. of space at the iconic Purdy’s Wharf office complex.

“Halifax is a dynamic environment for start-ups like ours, and the city is attracting loads of young tech talent,” says Alex Dunphy, CEO and co-founder of Adaptiiv. “We’re an exciting young company with a strong growth trajectory and similar to Purdy’s Wharf, we’re local with global aspirations.”

Boom Times On Many Fronts

Home to six universities, Halifax provides tech companies with a steady supply of new workers with each graduating class. Students, like businesses, haven’t been deterred by the pandemic: 31,532 students were enrolled across the city during the 2020/2021 school year—the highest enrollment ever recorded.

It’s not just students heading east. Halifax’s population has grown by more than 8,000 every year since 2017, according to Statistics Canada, and the city added 9,262 people between June 2020 and July 2021. Rather than international arrivals, the majority (5,594) of new Haligonians moved from other Canadian provinces.

The growing population has been a boost for the economy. Halifax Partnership, an economic development agency, reports that total employment in December 2021 was up 2.7% year-over-year, while the unemployment rate ended the year at 5.7%—the lowest it has been since August 2019.

The city’s manufacturing sector saw the largest employment gains last year, at 20%. Professional scientific, and technical services followed, with 17% growth.

Falling Vacancy, Increasing Momentum

With companies vying for space, the overall office vacancy rate in Halifax fell to 15.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, a decrease of 40 bps year-over-year. The 12,000 sq. ft. of net office leasing reported in Q4 made Halifax the fourth most in-demand office market in the country.

There has been a flurry of leasing activity in the suburban office markets as well, as residents are lured out of the downtown core by cheaper housing and kept there by increasing gas and toll prices.

Despite the rising demand for space, however, Q4 2021 marked Halifax’s sixth consecutive quarter without any new office supply, as developers’ focus on multifamily projects.

In contrast to the office market, the city’s industrial market is poised to see a boost of inventory in 2022, with 113,000 sq. ft. of space slated to come to market this year. With Halifax’s industrial availability rate at 2.2%, the space is much needed.

The scarce supply of industrial space pushed average net rental rates to an all-time high of $8.40 per sq. ft. in Q4 2021. Halifax is still far more affordable than other major cities, though, and well below the national average net rent of $10.47 per sq. ft.

Big City Ambitions

Halifax’s growth has been a long time coming and it’s poised to continue; the city’s current population of 460,274 is expected to reach half a million within the next five years.

As Halifax expands, the city could come to rival Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal as a major Canadian business hub. Thanks to its rebounding economy, affordable office space, and deep pool of tech talent, that day could come sooner than later.

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