A spike in rental prices in Hamilton, Ont., amid the novel coronavirus pandemic has a frustrated single mother from Flamborough giving up on her quest to find a rental home for her and her two daughters.
“Because school is starting and I don’t want to move the girls during the semester with all the crazy virus stuff going on,” said Christine Grice, who says her household will likely ride out the school year living in an add-on at her folks’ place.
Grice, a purchasing coordinator who makes $60,000 a year, says she started looking for a two-bedroom rental in June and was taken aback by cost and demand which seemed to increase by the day during her searches.
“I watched the ads every day and would call the same day to make an appointment, ” Grice said.
“I would make it for the next day after work and three times in my search they already had applicants by the time I saw the apartment.”
Recent data from rentals.ca says the average cost of a dwelling in Hamilton continued to rise year over year, with a single bedroom unit hitting $1,489 per month in July while the average two-bedroom cost $2,170.
During the same period in 2019, a single bedroom was going for just $1,192 a month while two bedrooms were going for just $1,329, according to content director Paul Danison.
“Month to month (rents) have been fluctuating a little bit, but year over year rents in Hamilton have gone sky-high,” said Danison.
The trend mimics recent numbers seen in Southern Ontario’s real estate market in which home prices continued to surge despite the pandemic, particularly in the Hamilton-Niagara region.
A real estate expert told Global News in July that the trend was tied to clients accepting a potentially permanent work-from-home employment scenario.
“Simply put, larger homes in smaller communities have become more fashionable. As competition for these properties heats up, bidding wars are more common in what were our quieter cities and towns,” said Royal LePage president and CEO Phil Soper.
Danison says it’s likely that the rental market is experiencing the same trend as tenants look for more space outside of the more expensive big cities like Toronto.
“Renters are choosing to live in the smaller markets outside the GTA, where you can get more, even if you’re not buying,’ Danison said.
Grice says when she does resume her search, she may just have to go with a money order in hand visiting a potential home.
“That is something I wouldn’t do without seeing the apartment first,” Grice said. “I will try again next year but by the looks of the prices I won’t be able to stay in the area.”
City pushing Ontario to re-instate moratorium on evictions
Meanwhile, the pressures on those who have a rental in the city are of concern to city councillors who approved a motion last week urging the province re-instate it’s hold on evictions for the foreseeable future.
Ontario’s moratorium on residential evictions initiatives was an aid the province created amid the pandemic to alleviate financial pressure on those whose incomes were affected by the province’s emergency orders in March.
However, Bill 184 — which amended the province’s Residential Tenancies Act — put an end to that stay and allows property owners, who had evictions on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to proceed.
“So I am concerned that was premature in the context of the province’s position on limiting the freeze,” said West Mountain Counc. Terry Whitehead who introduced the motion. “I think we need to extend it for at least three months or until things are back to normal.”
“I’m not saying all the landlords are doing this, but I know listening to what’s been happening in my own family, that this is what is happening,” Glanbrook Counc. Brenda Johnson said last week.
“They’re trying to get more rent because the market is going through the roof.”
As of mid-August, the LTB told Global News there were 323 non-payment applications are for addresses in Hamilton, while 26 collect rent applications were processed.
Hamilton Centre councillor Nrinder Nann says her concerns are over the actual number of those applications that could be potentially higher than recent numbers stated by the LTB.
“We don’t have those statistics, and that prevents us as a municipality from preparing in the way that we ought to, and need to, for those who are facing homelessness in the coming months,” Nann said.
The city’s motion also calls on the province to release data from the LTB to let city staff know exactly how many Hamiltonians are facing eviction.
Currently, Hamilton has about 6,200 households on a wait list for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance in Hamilton.
Andrew Parashis managing partner at Spotted Properties, who works with about 140 landlords and around 800 tenants says about 20 per cent of renters in the Hamilton-region who’ve partnered with his agency ended up being deficient with rent during the province’s moratorium on evictions.
He says an ‘interesting’ trend during the pandemic, particularly when CERB was introduced, was the number of previously deficient renters who actually caught up on missed payments.
“I think it’s because some of the one-bedroom apartments occupied by people who maybe previously had less secure financial positions, with the introduction of CERB, were now on top of things,” Parashis said.
However, of the 20 per cent who were deficient, Parashsis says about 30 per cent of them simply didn’t pay during the pandemic.
“We just had our first eviction today, and these tenants owed something in the realm of $17,000.”
Toronto real estate lawyer Ismail Ibrahim told Global News that he believes growing rents and demand amid the uncertainty of a pandemic creates a “complex issue” that has both stakeholders and advocates sounding off.
Ibrahim says whatever the solution may be, it has to be a “fair” process that respects landlords, tenants, and the taxpayers.
“If you are going to do an eviction moratorium, there has to be something to assist landlords who are taking a lot of the burden right now where tenants are not paying rent,” said Ibrahim.
“I think the problem that we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg at this point. ”
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