Watch it rise!
High rent makes affordable living hard to come by
Article: Aidan Macnab – Contributor
Rent in the Queen City is high. Real high.
According to rentboard.ca, a service member of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association, the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Regina is $1,142/month.
Tyler Gray, Housing Support Coordinator at Carmichael Outreach, sees high rent as a big reason why he’s witnessing more and more people using the services that his foundation provides.
“Even since June, prices across the board are probably up about 100 bucks…The more that price goes up, the more that people have to reach into other aspects of their life to be able to fund their housing… if it’s paying less for groceries and then coming and getting a lunch service here, then that’s what it is… Ultimately the driving force behind it is the cost of housing.”
Although, Regina is making progress in increasing the number of housing units available, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found in its ‘Spring Rental Market Survey,’ that Regina’s vacancy rate was 1.9 per cent as of this April. This is up from .6 percent in April of 2012.
According to Gray, the rise in vacancy rate, although a positive, is not driving rental prices down to an acceptable level.
“The quantity of housing in Regina isn’t an indicator of the affordability of that quantity,” Gray said.
And as for affordability, the acceptable price of housing, says Gray, needs to be within 30% of a person’s income. The 30% rule is a widely held standard of affordable housing.
It’s his opinion the road to meeting that 30% mark lies in co-operation between the municipal, provincial and federal governments, via “subsidized rent, or increased social assistance rates, and loosening regulations and obstacles…that are preventing the low income developments from happening.”
The call to address this housing crisis has not fallen on deaf ears.
On July 29 of this year, City Council passed a revised version of the ‘Comprehensive Housing Strategy Implementation Plan’ that Eve Richards, Manager for Neighbourhood Planning for the City of Regina, says contains “over 30 strategies to provide affordable housing for the residents of the city.”
Among the incentives is a $15,000 per rental unit offered to owners willing to charge a rate for rent that is below the market average. A renter must have an income below $66,500/year to qualify. There is also a “condominium conversion bylaw.”
“Owners of an apartment building with rental units cannot convert to [a] condo until [the vacancy rate] is higher than 2 per cent,” says Richards.
Richards agrees with Gray that the Vacancy rate, even when it reaches 2 per cent, is not that much of a factor in Regina’s affordable housing situation.
“It’s good in terms of there’s more rental properties or rental units available…it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily more affordable.” he said.
And for Gray, talk of market solutions like tax incentives, that will hopefully, eventually yield some results, ignores the urgency of the situation.
“The reality of it is that for the people who are living in homelessness and are experiencing homelessness, we’re already running out of time…. and it’s only going to get worse as the temperature starts to drop.”