Young renters face inequality, supply issues when seeking a place to live in Hamilton: report

A report compiled by Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC) says young renters are the group most impacted by accelerating rental prices in the city. AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

A new report from a Hamilton non-profit support group is highlighting struggles for young renters in the city.

The rental housing market report compiled by Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC) says young renters, particularly those between 15 and 24 are the group most impacted by accelerating rental prices in the city.

SPRC social planner Alana Westervelt says low wages, precarious employment, and discrimination are factors the study says influences challenges the age group faces when attempting to secure housing.

“Bachelor units, for example, that’s where units in the city have been decreasing over a period of the past 20 years, we’ve seen almost a 20 per cent decrease in the number of units that are available,” Westervelt explained.

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“These are the units that are most often rented by youth and new entrants into the rental market.”

The examination also reveals youth represent only eight per cent of those who qualify for subsidized housing in the market and typically don’t benefit from rent control measures available to established older renters.

Additionally, Statistics Canada 2019 employment data says young Canadians aged 15 to 30 are also less likely to have a good job compared to older Canadians primarily because they often attend school on a full-time basis.

Three years ago, Statistics Canada said the employment rate of young Canadians — the percentage of the youth population who is employed — was 67.3 per cent lower than that of their older counterparts aged 31 to 54.

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The SPRC report also reveals the cost of a single-bedroom unit in Hamilton is usually above the city average set by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) rental data whose 2021 threshold was calculated to be around $1,190 per month.

The latest report, which aggregates rents from online listings every month, puts the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom, of all dwelling types in Hamilton, at $1,749 as of October – some 47 per cent higher than the CHMC number.

That number is also 13 per cent higher than the $1,559 cost per month reported in October of 2021.

A spokesperson from the CHMC told Global News in February Ontario’s rent freeze legislation, introduced amid the pandemic, was kind to existing renters but generally did little for those who needed a new place.

Anthony Passarelli, who tracks Hamilton, Halton and Peel Regions, estimates only one of every seven vacant units in the primary market is affordable to renters at the 40th income percentile.

An industry-accepted measure for affordability estimates that a household income should account for about 30 per cent for accommodations, however, renters in Hamilton with an income of $42,000 are paying more than the $1,049 they should be.

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Virtually no units were available to low-income renters making in the range of $25,000.

“What we found is that if you’re making below the median income, a very small percentage of those vacant units are affordable,” Passarelli said.

“So a lot of the vacant units are only affordable to people … with incomes above the 50th percentile – so higher than the median.”

Other pitfalls for young renters include credit checks and lack of rental history information – typical commodities that a youth has yet to build up.

Westervelt says those circumstances usually lead to prospective young renters having to find co-signers and pair up with tenants they don’t know to mitigate costs.

“They may sign a lease with folks not knowing any of the background of those individuals,” said Westervelt.

“This puts young renters specifically in a precarious rental situation. We’ve seen our rental landscape change so drastically that folks are being forced into these situations, not necessarily out of choice, but out of necessity in order to put a roof over their head.”

How much it costs to rent an apartment in Hamilton

Average rent prices across all apartments and condos in Hamilton rose by almost 12.7 per cent year-over-year in October, according to the latest report.

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The agency says the average price of rent across all units in Hamilton in October was $1,932.

“Hamilton finished 20th on the list of 35 cities for average monthly rent in October for a one-bedroom at $1,749 and for average monthly rent for a two-bedroom at $2,149,” the report read.

Average rent for a studio apartment in the city last month was $1,344. The average three-bedroom unit cost $2,398 in October.

Ontario average rents rose annually by 17.7 per cent to $2,372 for condo rentals and apartments.

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