Rental crisis hits close to home

Now is not an ideal time to be a renter on the West Shore

Across the region, examples of an increasingly scary housing situation are everywhere.

Couples are bringing in a roommate (or more) to help cover the cost of rent. Recreational vehicles are being used as full-time residences outside of designated RV parks. Young professionals are moving back in with their parents. Landlords are fielding more queries and applications from tenants than they know what to do with, and the difference between finding a job and finding an apartment is becoming increasingly difficult to discern.

And that’s without even mentioning Tent City.

As Malcolm Hall, owner of many rental units on the West Shore through his company Lifestyle Ventures, told the Gazette, he “wouldn’t want to be a renter” in this market.

In this issue we talk to a couple who had a difficult time finding a place to live, not because of price, but due to specific requirements when it comes to their living space.

Housing isn’t exactly an issue that’s hiding under the surface, yet here we are anyway, where renters of all budgets are being squeezed out and left scrambling for a place. The most frustrating aspect of this ongoing crisis is the lack of a readily available solution.

More subsidized housing could have an impact, as it would take families out of the competition for the more affordable two-and three-bedroom rental units. Naturally, any major initiative is going to take commitment from all three levels of government.

More rental stock seems a viable solution, but is West Shore infrastructure ready for continued growth? Ask anyone who has travelled Jacklin Road in the afternoon rush and they’d likely give you an emphatic “nope.”

The good news, Hall points out, is that this is a cyclical problem. Builders are capitalizing on a hot market now and with demand for a limited supply of suites at a high, it’s only a matter of time before the reverse is true. It takes a shift of just a few percentage points in the vacancy rate for a market to cool, leading to stabilization or even regression in rents.

In the meantime, West Shore bylaw officers may have to keep a watchful eye on seemingly vacant RVs.