Renters making sacrifices to deal with sky-high Metro Vancouver prices

Renters continue to feel the squeeze from Metro Vancouver’s sky-high rents and low vacancy rates, with many making sacrifices in order to find reasonable housing.

But an industry insider says it’s also time for the government to get creative in finding solutions for the region’s tight rental market.

Paul Danison, with, says the continuing cycle of high demand and low supply has been exacerbated by inflation, rising interest rates, and increased pressure from immigration.

“In Vancouver [average rents for January] are up 24 per cent; in Burnaby, up 33 per cent; Surrey even saw a 20 per cent rise for condo rentals and apartments, even though Surrey and Langley are two of the more affordable areas in Metro Vancouver,” he tells OMNI News.

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A report from finds Vancouver is still Canada’s most expensive rental market, with January rents for one-bedroom units averaging $2,755 and two-bedroom rents averaging $3,732.

For medium-sized markets, the three most expensive cities were all in B.C. — Burnaby at $2,947 per month, Coquitlam at $2,680, and Richmond at $2,636.

Carmina Bacungan is an international student who lives in Vancouver with her husband, sharing their two-bedroom garden suite with a third roommate to make the $1850 rent less of a financial burden.

Bacungan suggests the property and situation are less than ideal, but there is a “poverty of choice” in Metro Vancouver when it comes to rentals — they could try to find a better space but every dollar and cent counts.

“It’s an expensive city and we can’t just burn our money for rent. It has held us back from moving to another place,” she says, adding it’s about how much they can save. “We’d rather save our money and use it for something worthwhile than spend it on rent.”

And she suggests it is a difficult decision to go to school and work in pricey Metro Vancouver.

“If we were to move to Alberta, I have heard from my friends that they are spending way less on rent than us, and they are living in townhouses.”

Danison agrees it is a tough situation for people looking to rent in the region.

“I don’t think there’s an easy, quick solution. Governments at all levels — federal, provincial, and municipal — need to get together to come up with creative solutions.”

He feels there are unconventional options available if governments are willing to put in the work.

“There are a lot of empty office spaces because of the work-from-home environment from the pandemic. Maybe some of those could be turned into work, play, eat, and shop lofts where people could live near where they work,” he suggests. “There are some zoning bylaws that would need to be changed and some other things that would need to be done to convert those, but I think governments have to start thinking much more creatively to add more supply to what’s out there right now.”

The report finds that among Canada’s six largest rental markets, Vancouver and Calgary had the highest increases for condominium rentals and apartment rents in January, with annual growth of 22.9 per cent and 22.7 per cent, respectively.

Toronto apartment rents increased 20.8 per cent annually in January, while the remaining three largest cities recorded lower annual rent growth ranging between 7.9 per cent in Montreal and 11.5 per cent in Ottawa.

-With files from OMNI

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