Finding an apartment — particularly bachelors and three-bedroom units — to rent in the Tri-Cities is increasingly difficult, according to data released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation last month.
Photograph By GLACIER MEDIA FILE PHOTO
Families looking to rent a three-bedroom unit will not find one in the Tri-Cities, according to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The organization's most recent rental market survey found a vacancy rate of zero for the larger units and bachelor suites, while the overall vacancy rate is 1.2%.
"There is absolutely a shortage of three-bedroom units," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.
He said the sharp increases in the value of detached homes has families looking for housing alternatives if they want to stay in the region.
"There is simply tremendous pressure and we can't create more single-family stock," he said. "We are going to see more families that are choosing to live in apartments."
Despite the rapid pace of development in Coquitlam, the Tri-Cities appears to be bucking the regional trend, which has actually seen a modest increase in the vacancy rate over the last year.
According to CMHC, the percentage of available units in Metro Vancouver has risen slightly from 0.9% in October of 2017 to 1% in October of 2018.
Much of the regional drop is attributed to Burnaby, which saw its vacancy rate rise from 0.7% to 2% in the last 12 months. Province wide, the vacancy rate has moved from 1.3 to 1.4%.
However, Stewart cautioned that the figures are only a snapshot and can be skewed if a new development comes available on the day CMHC collects its data.
He noted that last year the vacancy rate for three-bedrooms in the Tri-Cities was listed at 9%, something Stewart said did not align with the experience of volunteers searching for housing for refugee families.
"Those of us working with the Syrian families knew the vacancy rate was nowhere near 9%" he said, also adding: "I had to contact CMHC… and they confirmed that it is possible there was a statistical anomaly."
Council will look at ways of incentivizing developers to build more three-bedroom units in the new year, Stewart said.
He noted that the city is looking at exempting the third-bedroom from the density calculations, which he said would allow builders to construct the larger units without adding to their land costs.
"I really want to have that kind of policy before council as soon as possible," he said.
The lack of available units in the Tri-Cities is putting the squeeze on renters.
The average monthly cost for an apartment in the Tri-Cities has jumped 9% over the last year, according to CMHC, with bachelor suites seeing the sharpest increase (11%), followed by one bedroom units (9.5%) and two bedroom units (8%).
Still, Stewart acknowledged that the stubborn lack of movement in the vacancy rates can be disappointing, particularly in a community that has seen as much development as Coquitlam. He added that the region currently adds 20,000 units of housing a year, a figure he believes should be closer to 25,000.
However, for families that are fortunate to find an affordable place to live, the newly constructed units are vitally important, he said.
"Our goal is to provide housing for families," he said. "It makes an enormous difference for the thousands of families for whom housing is made available every year… You talk to some of the families moving into the housing, they view that housing as vitally important so our children have some hope of living in the region."
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