The number of rental units under construction in the Greater Toronto Area has reached the highest level in about 50 years, according to market research firm Urbanation Inc.

The report released Friday said at the end of 2019 the number of purpose-built rentals under construction in the GTA reached 12,367 units, the highest level since the 1970s.

While the number of rental units that began construction last year declined to 4,172 units from 5,620 the previous year, the number of units that were completed grew to 3,630, the highest level since the early 1990s.

The data come on the heels of a report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. earlier this week that revealed the national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments hit a 17-year low of 2.2 per cent in 2019.

“2019 may be remembered as an important year in the history of the GTA rental market, as the progress made towards increasing supply could mark the beginning of a new era for rental housing development in the region,” said Urbanation President Shaun Hildebrand in a release Friday. “But it’s critical that this momentum continues in the years to come in order to eventually bring the market into balance.”

​There are indications that the momentum will continue, as 2019 saw a 43-per-cent rise in submissions for purpose-built unit development compared with the previous year. This follows the Ontario government’s decision to remove rent controls for new units in 2018.