It’s easier to find a place to live in Vernon, but prices remain high.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reports Vernon’s apartment vacancy rate went from 6.3 to 7.7 per cent from April 2012 to April 2013. But the average monthly rent has gone from $709 to $714.
“When the vacancy goes up, the rent should go down,” said Juliette Cunningham, a city councillor.
“It’s still a challenge for people with limited resources to find suitable accommodations.”
Cunningham isn’t sure why the vacancy rate has increased, although it’s possibly related to people leaving the region to find work.
The CMHC report states there was a total of 1,592 private apartment units in Vernon in April 2012 and 1,583 in April 2013.
The rent for a bachelor suite has gone from $517 to $524 while a one-bedroom unit has gone from $635 to $636 and a two-bedroom apartment has climbed from $778 to $785. Rent for a three-bedroom unit has stayed flat at $851.
“Normally a higher vacancy rate results in rents dropping in price. This is not the case,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council.
“In particular, high rents impact quality of life for lone parent families, low income seniors and marginalized populations.”
Beyond being just a social issue, Sharkey insists that a lack of affordable housing negatively impacts the economy.
“Affordable rents are needed to attract and retain families to our community,” she said.
“Vernon needs a strong base of working families for economic stability and growth. If our community can’t provide affordable housing, we lose out on economic growth.”
Cunningham says the city is working with private companies to improve conditions and one option is insisting on below-market rental units when council gives approval to a development proceeding.
“I hope that once they are built, that may help families to move into something more appropriate for families and to free up housing for singles,” she said.