Rent remains expensive despite high vacancy rate

It’s easier to find a place to live in Vernon, but the cost of rental housing remains a stumbling block.

The vacancy rate has climbed from 5.6 to 7.7 per cent in the past year, but the average apartment rent has only dropped slightly — from $723 to $710.

“What I’m hearing is it’s not getting any easier to find an affordable place to live,” said Annette Sharkey, Social Planning Council executive director.

“I am not sure why the landlords are not reducing rent when the vacancy rate has gone up.”

There is still a concern that a lack of affordable housing is forcing some people to leave town and preventing new residents and businesses from relocating to Vernon.

Sharkey says the primary focus is on low and middle-income earners.

“We are a service sector driven community and the wages are not that high,” she said.

“Rent doesn’t leave families with a lot of money for healthy food or recreation. It’s difficult to raise families with the cost of rents in the community.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows the average rent for a bachelor suite in Vernon is $514 (down from $524 in April 2010), while it is $781 (down from $787) for a two-bedroom apartment and $809 (down from $840) for a three-bedroom unit.

CHMC officials aren’t sure why prices haven’t decreased when the rental market has become more competitive. But they expect that situation could change.

“If vacancy rates remain high, there is the possibility of price competition,” said Paul Fabri, a market analyst.

The Social Planning Council and other Vernon agencies are trying to establish models that establish more affordable housing without being reliant on government grants.

“We are still looking at working with developers on how to get more affordable housing. The issue hasn’t gone away,” said Sharkey.

A number of factors have led to the increased availability of rental units in Vernon.

“There has been an outflow of renters into the homeownership market because of low interest rates and house prices are down,” said Fabri.

Demand for rental units has also decreased because fewer people are moving into the area and a number of secondary suites have been built in homes.