Finding a place to rent in Kingston was a whole lot tougher this year. A healthy rental vacancy rate in a city is considered to be around three per cent.
That’s why a new report by CMHC is concerning. It shows Kingston’s vacancy rate has plunged to a 30-year low of only 0.7 per cent. It’s also the lowest in the province of Ontario.
It’s been a struggle for people like Bruce William when he was apartment hunting.
“The places they weren’t fixed up. They weren’t up to code and everything,” he said. “You have to take what you get otherwise landlords just rent it as it is.”
With that low vacancy rate comes rent increases.
Rents rose by an average of 3.1 per cent this year and 2.2 per cent the year before.
David Morey says apartment prices are why he lives in shared accommodations.
“I live on a limited income, so prices always keep going up,” Morey said.
One reason cited for the low vacancy is mortgage rates. As they creep higher, there are fewer renters becoming first-time home buyers.
The shortage of rental units has been on city hall’s radar for several years. Municipal incentives have helped to boost vacancy rates to around two and a half per cent over the last two years.
The Commissioner of Community Services, Lanie Hurdle, stresses this year’s drop doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the panic button but she is keeping an eye on the issue to make sure it doesn’t become a long-term trend.
“When you’re trying to attract businesses and people to move to this city and make this city even more vibrant without places to live it’s pretty challenging to do that,” she said.
Hurdle says another contributing factor to the low vacancy rate is projects, even though approved by council, haven’t moved forward.
Some because the developer hasn’t started building and others because they’re tied up at the Ontario Municipal Board.
Hurdle says a proposal to build two 10-storey apartment buildings at Princess and University is mired in delays.
Clearing some of those appeals should improve the vacancy situation, says Hurdle.
“We currently have almost 1,200 units, residential units that are held up at the Ontario Municipal Board.”
CMHC says the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $975 a month.
The challenge is finding one that is available.