Rent is not just increasing in major cities, but extending to rural communities at an unprecedented pace, the 2018 Canadian Rental Housing Index shows.
In Prince Rupert, the average rent increased by $132 in 2017. By the end of the first quarter of 2018, the market value of homes in the coastal city rose by 5.9 per cent from the year before.
Across the province, almost half of British Columbians are paying more than 30 per cent of their income — the high-end of the recommended amount — on rent. In the Skeena-Queen Charlotte region, almost a third of the population rents. Despite having slightly lower income than the province’s average, 30 per cent of people in the district are still paying more than the recommended percentage of their income on housing. Thirteen per cent of renters in Skeena-Queen Charlotte are paying more than 50 per cent of their income on housing.
“We have over 40 percent of people in Prince Rupert rent,” Paul Lagace, a poverty law advocate who works at the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre (PRUAC), said. “Every day I deal with clients that are spending 60 to 80 per cent of their money on rent. Anybody on income assistance is spending 100 per cent of their money on rent if they’re single.”
While 40 modular affordable housing units are coming to Prince Rupert, and services like SAFER — Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters — offer some help, there’s no overall decrease in rent in sight, Lagace said, in part because of the five per cent vacancy rate in Prince Rupert. Many Rupertites rely on seasonal work, and work that was once reliable — fishing was one example he gave — isn’t what it used to be.
“This marks the first time in a generation that the rate of Canadian renters has outpaced the number of Canadians buying a home, and speaks to the need to increase the supply of affordable housing,” Jeff Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association said in a press release.
The release states that, traditionally, people have moved to suburban and rural areas to escape the high cost of living in a city. Now, rent is catching up.
“Rupert is on par with some of the bigger cities,” Lagace said. With his own job at PRUAC, he can barely afford rent in the community.
“I can’t imagine how somebody in a lesser position than me is getting by and is single. I don’t know how they’re doing it.”