Downtown Edmonton development squeezing out cheap housing
More people forced onto the streets as rooming houses fall to developments
‘I slept in my car’: Edmonton’s rental market razor thin
Sasauna Campbell, a mother of two young kids who moved to Edmonton to start a job, just spent a chilly fall night sleeping in her car.
She may have to do it again, because she can’t find a place to live for herself and her children, aged one and three, who are back home in Drumheller with a family friend.
“I was couch-surfing and I didn’t manage to find anywhere last night so I slept in my car,” Campbell said Wednesday. “I had it running for a bit and I was lucky to have a blanket that I keep just in case I get into an accident.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.”
Campbell epitomizes the newcomer attracted to Edmonton for its plentiful employment prospects, and also represents another less welcoming side of the region’s economy — a razor-thin rental housing market. Campbell said she moved here from Drumheller last month to start working on a company’s website. She has budgeted for $1,000 per month or less for rent, and the pickings are slim. And she says some landlords are picky.
“There’s lots of places, but if you have children, it’s a no-go. There’s one-bedrooms and lots of bachelors that are available. There are a few two-bedrooms, but they’re only looking for an individual.”
Edmonton’s rental vacancy rate is 1.2 per cent, but that is based on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s spring survey released in April. The fall survey is being conducted this month, and the latest vacancy rate won’t be released until December.
Affordability elusive in tight Calgary rental market
Photograph by Colleen De Neve , Calgary Herald
When Gisele Knorr’s landlord tripled her rent, she could be forgiven for thinking she’d experienced the worst of Calgary’s housing market.
She elected to move rather than accept the rent hike — $400 a month to $1,200 — but was forced to leave her latest apartment when the landlord sold the property.
That was more than a year ago, and she has spent most of that time at the Calgary YWCA, unable to find a place she can afford and sick of touring apartments that are “essentially shoeboxes.”
The market for rentals under $1,000 a month was “pathetic,” she said.
“Nine hundred dollars, that’s what the starting rate was for something that was barely worth looking at.
“The carpet is threadbare, they won’t paint it. The light fixtures are broken or don’t work at all. The bathroom has so much porcelain chipped you might as well be washing in an old tin bath tub.
“I don’t think $900 should be the bottom for a reasonable place.”
Knorr’s options are limited. She broke her back working for fire rescue in southern California 16 years ago and, despite continuing in a less physical job for a time, is now living on a $1,600 a month disability pension
The latest property numbers would make grim reading for her.
Figures from leading Alberta property website rentfaster.ca show its listings have jumped 30 per cent since September 2012 — from 2,300 to more than 3,000 — but the new supply was not in the areas it was needed most.
“The problem is just the stuff being built tends to be higher-end condos,” rentfaster.ca president Darren Paddock said.
“Gone are the days where it’s relatively easy to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000. They just don’t really exist. The vacancy there probably is less than one per cent.”
Average rents for apartments, condos, townhouses and shared rentals on the website are all up on a year ago.
The townhouse average has increased the most — up 20 per cent since September 2012 — followed by apartments (11 per cent), shared rentals (10 per cent) and condos (five per cent).
The high demand means landlords can be choosy, Paddock said.
“If you have a dog and you smoke, or if you have bad credit and you need a place under $1,200, it’s really tough because the landlords can run an open house and probably get 20 people.”