KELOWNA - A long-time local property manager says the Kelowna rental housing market is “turbulent” right now with the impact of the Fort McMurray fires landing on top of the collapse in oil prices and compounded by a lack of supply.
“Everyone is looking for a place but I’ve got nothing. I can’t rent what I don’t have,” Kathleen Kendall says. “I’ve got people staying with friends and storing their stuff in sea cans so they can get a place for July or August."
The six properties she had available for June are long gone and she’s hearing sob stories as people make desperate bids for decent rental accommodation in an area where the vacancy rate stands at a meagre 0.7 per cent.
“I know a lot of them are affected by Fort Mac. These people are in such debt. Now they’re selling everything, trying to start over.”
Kendall says the situation is “way past” putting people on a waiting list.
“I could have a 100 people on a list and it wouldn’t matter. If I’ve got nothing, I’ve got nothing,” she adds.
The average rent in Kelowna for the so-called secondary market — houses, carriage houses and basement suites — is $1,370 according to Canada Mortgage and Housing, while the average rent for purpose-built rental units is $870.
Kendall says investors in a hot real estate market are helping drive up rents beyond what locals can afford.
“I had someone call me up and say they want a house and they want $2,600 to $2,800 a month rent for it,” she says. “What industry pays that kind of money?”
Still, Kendall points out she represents the property owner and will try to get the rent they ask for, although she personally recommends against pushing rents too high.
“So then you end up with eight students living in a house, which is not always the best situation either,” she says. “You’re better to get the right tenant and the right price than a bad tenant at a great price.”
Still, Kendall doesn’t believe the situation is permanent and market forces will eventually sort it out.
"You've always got your low swings then your high swings but it always comes back to the middle."
Find more stories on Kelowna rental housing here.
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