The vacancy rate in Canada’s private rental housing market has slipped to a painfully low 2.6% in the country’s larger urban areas (where most renters live), according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. CMHC’s rental market report, released this morning, shows average rents have increased by 2.9% over the past year – faster than inflation. Most low, moderate and many middle-income households live in private rental housing. Housing experts say a 3% vacancy rate is the minimum for a healthy market. Canada’s vacancy rate is on a downward trend – down from 2.8% in 2009. While the country’s population is growing, and the need for rental housing remains strong, overall supply of private rental housing in fell marginally as the number of units lost to demolition or conversion outpaced the relatively small amount of new construction. Across the country, the number of vacant rental units fell by almost 6% to 50,553. Canada is the only major country without a national housing strategy and, as the Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010 notes, high rents in existing rental homes and the lack of new rental supply are two critical issues facing low, moderate and middle-income Canadians.