After being named the fifth most expensive city to rent in across the country late last year, Kelowna, B.C., has now moved its way up to number four and the city is ready to address that issue.
“I think it’s disappointing to hear. We definitely feel keenly the increase in rent prices has a real effect on people’s lives in our community but I can’t say it comes as a complete surprise,” said James Moore, City of Kelowna Infill and Housing Policy manager.
According to a report released by the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation, a two-bedroom apartment is an average of around $2,300 a month, and these high costs have much to do with a short supply of available rentals.
Kelowna’s vacancy rate is currently at 1.2 per cent, a slight increase from last year.
Elsewhere around the Okanagan, rates are also low. Vernon is at 0.7 per cent and Penticton at 1.1 per cent, both cities holding the same rate from 2021.
“It’s just a reflection of the high pace of growth we’ve seen from the past year it’s clear that a lot of folks want to live here,” said Moore.
“I think it’s also a different demographic that’s moving here now. A few decades ago we might have seen demand for retirement living we’re now seeing demand for folks who are renters in the early stages of their life.”
In Kelowna, last year, over 3,000 new homes have begun construction, most of which are either condos or being developed for rental units. The city says residents can expect more developments over the next few years, as a way to make renting more affordable.
“The number one strategy we have is to try to increase the supply of rental housing and to that end, we have a really large amount of rental housing coming down the pipe right now with over 5,000 units in stream today,” said Moore.
This report highlights the dire need for affordable housing, something the Society of Hope is actively working on bringing more of to the city in the next year.
One project, Capstone, is already under construction and is expected to be completed by mid-2024.
“It’s for seniors and for families; it will be subsidized for folks. Most of the units will be based on people’s income at 30 per cent of the household income and the other units will be based at a lower than market rental rate,” said Ken Zeitner, Society of Hope executive director.
Zietner says the society recognizes that affording a home is a struggle for most of the cities population.
“In years gone by we would see folks who are on lower income levels who are struggling to find an affordable place and they would eventually find something reasonable for them and it was still stretching,” said Zeitner.
“Now what we’re seeing is the middle-class folks, a lot of those folks are struggling.”
Along with the society, the city is also trying to provide more affordable housing for Kelowna residents and is working with different agencies including BC Housing to make that happen.