June 22, 2013 - 10:29 AM
VERNON — A new report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says apartment vacancies have opened up, but rental costs haven't gone down.
Vernon's apartment vacancy rate grew to 7.7 per cent this year from 6.3 per cent in April 2012, while the average monthly rent rose to $714 from $709. That might not seem like a lot to some people, but a local politician is concerned it's deepening financial stresses on those individuals already hovering around the poverty line.
"When added to the increases people are facing across the board, with food, hydro bills, (and) B.C. Medicare, it can be a really big burden," Coun. Juliette Cunningham says. "Every increase is another hit for them."
Cunningham is part of a Partners in Action committee where she hears from local organizations about growing pressures on food banks.
"I don't judge why people are there, there can be so many complex reasons," Cunningham says. "I'm sensitive to it, because I come from a pretty poor (upbringing)."
She says city efforts to promote affordable housing formally came online in 2005, and they helped, but "Vernon still has an affordability issue."
"It doesn't make sense that vacancy has gone up and rental prices have too," Cunningham says of the housing report. "Common sense would say the cost should go down."
She says Vernon's growing seniors population will necessitate more affordable housing in coming years. She says their incomes stay the same while food, utilities and other expenses continue to skyrocket. But it's not just seniors and what we tend to think of as the traditional poor.
"We need to provide different types of affordable housing, not just targeted at those near or below the poverty line, but families with incomes in the $60,000 range that are just making ends meet."
Part of the problem is Vernon's emphasis on the tourism and retail sectors.
"They typically pay low or minimum wage," Cunningham says. "We don't have family supporting jobs."
According to the housing report, rent went up in other Thompson-Okanagan cities as well. Salmon Arm saw average monthly rent rise to $721 in 2013 from $709 in 2012, while its vacancy increased to 6.1 per cent from 4.9 per cent. Kelowna rent rose to $861 from $834 while its vanacy decreased from 5.2 to 4.8 per cent. Kamloops rent was up to $770 from $753 as its vacancy rate shrunk from 4.2 to 3.8 per cent.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230. Follow on Twitter @charhelston
This story was corrected at 8 a.m. June 22 to say Juliette Cunningham is part of a Partners in Action committee where she hears about pressures on local food banks.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013