Carmen Gamache, a single mother of two, is living in a Penticton motel out of desperation, unable to find an affordable place to rent.
She fears her family will be forced to vacate come May with nowhere to go.
“I really, really need a home, and I hope my daughters have a place to call home when they graduate… I’m terrified,” she said. “My daughters graduate in June. I should be thinking about prom, prom dresses, prom dates that they might go on. I’m worried about the fact we may be homeless.”
Penticton’s rental vacancy rate was 1.1 per cent in October 2016, compared to 1.6 per cent in October 2015, according to the latest figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
One problem contributing to the lack of long-term rental housing supply is listings for fixed-term leases where tenants must vacate before the more lucrative tourist season.
Some of those landlords are expected to post their units on online short-term rental sites like AirBnB or VRBO.
“I understand you can get three, four, five thousand dollars a month for those places, but what about the people who live here, work here? Penticton has so many places of employment, people working, but where are we supposed to live?,” Gamache questioned.
There are currently 330 short-term rental listings posted online in Penticton.
City Hall said 72 business licences have been issued for seasonal rentals.
That means only 22 per cent of the short-term rental properties have obtained a licence.
“Any time that you have bylaws or regulations that are being flaunted… there is an arrogance in that, that does not abide by the bylaw and the city is looking most unfavorably at that and we are devising strategies that hopefully will address that problem,” said Counc. Judy Sentes, Chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force.
City officials said numerous rental projects are underway including a 99-unit development on Duncan Avenue.
The city also said in partnership with BC Housing and a non-profit group, it leased land for the development of more than 60 new units of housing for low income workers on Brunswick Street.
The question is, are the number of units keeping pace with demand?
“I think we are similar to a lot of communities, we are trying to play a little bit of catch-up in terms of trying to get that demand met,” said Anthony Haddad, Penticton Director of Development Services.
The rental crunch is leaving residents like Gamache pleading for help.
“Penticton needs more housing, affordable housing. Penticton needs more places for the people that work here, to live here.”