Campbell River has the lowest rental vacancy rate on Vancouver Island. Photo by Marc Kitteringham - Campbell River Mirror

Finding a home ‘impossible’ in Vernon

One per cent vacancy rate, record high home prices in North Okanagan

A historic low vacancy rate is building greater fears for those struggling to afford a home.

The low rate, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation October 2020 data, comes not only during a pandemic but a hot real estate market in the area.

“We have not had a market like that since 2008,” Vernon’s economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole said.

“For the last five or six years, Vernon has hovered around 1.5-1.6.”

Record high home prices and record-high rents have forced many people out of the market.

“It’s incredibly scary — a one per cent vacancy rate — we’re just going to continue with that backlog,” City of Vernon Coun. Kari Gares said.

A large number of residents are struggling just to find a place to rent, with the average two-bedroom suite costing approximately $1,500 a month.

“It’s pretty much impossible,” Vernon resident Danielle Ducklow said. “I was lucky enough to find a rental but my ex and his mom are having a hard time finding one and could possibly be homeless at the end of the month.”

Others report grown children having to move back home due to a lack of rentals, or renting motel rooms.

Compared to years ago, Vernon actually has a good supply of rental housing, Coun. Brian Quiring said, pointing out Highstreet Ventures and BX Crossing.

But it’s not enough.

READ MORE: Homeless, senior and starter housing builds in Vernon

The challenge is finding large enough parcels of land for rental housing.

“One particular developer has been looking for a few years to find a suitable piece of land,” Poole said.

With more available land outside of the city, Coun. Brian Quiring will be asking the Vernon mayor to write a letter to one particular neighbouring community to make affordable housing initiatives a priority.

“Other communities in the area have stepped up including Armstrong and Lumby and we need our neighbours in Coldstream to do the same,” Quiring said.

Those who are renting but wanting to get into the real estate market are also feeling the pinch as home sale prices have gone through the roof.

Single-family home prices in the North Okanagan are up 11.5 per cent on average, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board. The average home was worth $583,000 in 2020, compared to $523,000 in 2019. And the prices have only increased since then.

Since 1987, when single-family home prices in the region were below $100,000, they have steadily increased over the years, with only slight drops from 2008 to 2013.

The number of sales also saw a huge spike, up 31.1 per cent from $973 million in 2019 to $1.27 billion in 2020.

The volume of single-family homes also rose 19.2 per cent for an average value of $671 million in 2020 from $505 million in 2019.

“I think it’s going to be a very long time before vacancy rates are going to be in excess of four per cent,” Quiring said

READ MORE: Triple O’s, storage and more builds coming to Vernon


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