Future uncertain for local landlords as COVID-19 pandemic changes Kingston housing situation

Click to play video: 'Pandemic causes Kingston landlords to fill empty rooms, houses'
Pandemic causes Kingston landlords to fill empty rooms, houses
WATCH: Kingston, Ont., landlords are seeing many out-of-town tenants working and studying from home due to the pandemic. Causing a surge in vacant rooms and houses. – Oct 7, 2020

Finding a place to rent in Kingston, Ont., has been a challenge for many years. The vacancy rate has been below two percent, making it one of the lowest in Canada.

Over the last several months, for-rent signs have popped up around the downtown core, which has been an unusual sight for many.

“It’s possible that they’re (landlords) just trying to fill holes that have been created by this mess,” said Shawn Leclaire, a local landlord and president of the Kingston Rental Property Owners Association.

Many students attending Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and the Royal Military College have called downtown Kingston home, but with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forcing many classes to be conducted online, some out-of-town students have chosen to stay home, according to Leclaire.

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“I have a couple of St. Lawrence landlord colleagues, and they’ve told me they’ve been playing musical chairs with which student is leaving next,” said Leclair.

The mayor of Kingston, Bryan Paterson, created a housing task force in 2019 to combat a vacancy rate under one percent the previous year.

On Wednesday, Paterson said with the current window of available rentals and housing developments in the works; he hopes it will create more affordable housing once the pandemic passes.

“If we have additional supply now, that is good, but I don’t think it’s something we can count on long term,” said Paterson.

According to Leclaire, with the tightening of borders, the thousands of international students who attend Queen’s and St. Lawrence College has led to empty rooms and houses.

Because of this, landlords are now left paying the mortgage, maintenance fees and insurance on properties out of their own pocket.

“If they have persistent vacancy, that money has to come from somewhere, and that could cause a problem for new landlords,” said Leclaire.

As the pandemic rolls on, the future is unclear for many Kingston landlords.

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Leclaire says they will have a better picture next fall as to whether businesses and schools make a full transition online or revert to the past when finding a room to rent in Kingston wasn’t quite so easy.

Click to play video: 'Kingston moves towards supportive housing to address homeless issue'
Kingston moves towards supportive housing to address homeless issue

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