Home ownership is on the decline across Canada and, in turn, more cities are seeing a higher proportion of rental households
And the Central Okanagan is no different.
According to a report released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, Canada’s homeownership rate fell overall to 66.5 per cent in 2021 from a peak of 69 per cent in 2011.
B.C. posted the third-largest homeownership decline over the decade between 2011 and 2021, dropping to 66.8 per cent from 70 per cent.
B.C. is also leading the country in the total number of renter households, with Kelowna seeing the largest increase nationwide in that timeframe with 54 per cent growth.
That shift toward higher number of renters on a local level could be chalked up to a couple of reasons, Ryan Smith, the divisional director of planning and development in the City of Kelowna, said.
“First of all, housing prices have risen steadily all across the country. And certainly, Kelowna is no exception to that and even more so, being an attractive place to live,” Smith said.
“We’ve also seen continued expansion from business and educational sectors and health care sectors in Kelowna as well, which is driving more people into the community.”
That’s caused a number of issues and among them is a lack of housing, particularly in the area of rentals.
The rental vacancy rate in the city has hovered under one per cent for years. It’s currently pegged at 0.6 per cent, a slight improvement from years past.
There’s long been a push to create more rental housing spaces.
“We struggled for years to incentivize purpose-built rentals in Kelowna,” Smith said. “So over the last 10 years, through a number of different mechanisms, we’ve been able to see booming construction of purpose-built rental housing.”
Initiatives the city put in place to encourage developers to build rentals have included density bonusing built into zoning bylaws and tax incentives.
“And we also do our best to be flexible to make sure that during development processes, rental housing is being considered.
That has resulted in upwards of 4,000 rental units built over the last 10 years, with 3,400 of those being built in the last five years,
More, Smith said, is being encouraged.
“While we’ve seen about 4,000 rental units built in the last 10 years, we have more in-stream right now. So I’ll give an example of in a single evening. Council approved 400 a couple of weeks ago. They may have to 400 again next week. And that’s on top of about 1,400 we already have in the development process right now,” Smith said.
“So there’s a healthy amount of rental housing in the permitting process to come still. Whether that will be built or not depends on what availability of labour or interest rates, all those types of things which play a factor in whether housing gets built or not.”