Canada’s office space problem

In the market for a sublet? How about a seven-floor, 348,100-square-foot office space that was supposed to be inhabited by a Canadian tech giant? 

What happened: In its latest cost-cutting measure, Shopify has put up its brand new would-be downtown Toronto office space on the market, further contributing to an already record-high office vacancy rate across the country of over 17%.

Why it matters: Think of Canada’s barren downtown workplaces as a physical representation of how the economy is doing these days (not great). Giving up office space has become a quick way to cut costs as economic conditions tighten.

  • Empty offices don’t just signal an economy in the dumps. They also contribute to it by hurting urban retailers that rely on foot traffic from the office crowd.

Bottom line: On the bright side, offices lying dormant could offer a solution to the housing shortage that’s squeezing tens of thousands out of urban centres. While office-to-residential conversions might not be realistic in cities with strict zoning laws (*cough* Toronto), Calgary, which has a mammoth 32.6% office vacancy rate, is seeing great success with the strategy.