Ottawa office vacancy inches up as market withstands initial COVID-19 hit

Ottawa office
Image for illustrative purposes only. (Photo by Laurent B on Unsplash)

Ottawa’s office leasing market suffered only a minor hit amid COVID-19 this spring, although questions surrounding the long-term impact of so many employees working from home continue to hang over the industry, according to a new report.

CBRE’s second-quarter market report is one of the first looks at the performance of the local commercial real estate market during the pandemic. Ottawa’s citywide office vacancy rate did climb 60 basis points to 7.2 per cent, but still remains below the five-year market average of 9.4 per cent thanks in large part to the stability created by the federal government’s presence.

The downtown vacancy rate took a slightly higher jump, climbing 80 basis points to 7.7 per cent as 190,000 square feet of vacant space inside 110 O’Connor St. came back on the market.

CBRE’s report also noted rising, but “modest,” sublet activity in several major Canadian cities. Locally, brokers have anecdotally made similar observations as some Ottawa tenants look to reduce their office footprint.

Jon Ramscar, CBRE’s executive vice-president and managing director, said in a statement that it’s still too early to predict the lasting impact of COVID-19 on vacancy and rental rates.