The May real estate statistics are due out in the next couple of weeks, and they’re expected to show the Sunshine Coast had another month of unusually high sales volume and prices. And that may not be good news for renters trying to find vacancies in a market already rated “severe” by the Rental Housing Index when it comes to affordability and the stock of rental housing.
The Index, created by the BC Nonprofit Housing Association and Vancity Credit Union, puts the Sunshine Coast at 252 out of 284 markets it tracks in Canada (using 2015 numbers). It also says renters make up about 16 per cent of Coast households.
Jennifer Chapman contacted Coast Reporter with her family’s story, which is typical of others we’ve been hearing.
Chapman said she and her husband are young, working professionals with two children. The family moved into a new rental home in February. Now it’s being sold. They signed a two-year lease, which Chapman hopes will give them some protection, but she’s worried about being able to find another place if they need to.
“We’ve actually moved quite a bit because of different situations with rentals,” she said. “Even before [February] we lived in a place where they were going to put it up for sale. That was two years ago. We moved out. We found another rental and we were in that [home] thinking we would stay another two to four years. Then the owners wanted to move back in, so we had to move again. It’s a really hard market, and it’s really hard to find houses within a price range that’s decent.”
Chapman added that their goal is to save enough for a down payment on a house, but steadily increasing real estate prices are making that harder as well.
Holywell Properties is a property management firm serving the Sunshine Coast. According to managing broker Adam Major, they’ve noticed a steady drop in the number of homes offered for rent, leading to what the company estimates is the lowest vacancy rate in a decade.
“We usually carry around 10 to 15 vacancies at any given time, but over the last few months we have averaged three to five,” Major said. “I don’t know that we have more people looking for rentals over what we normally have at this time of year. The issue seems to be a lack of supply, which is brought about by people selling in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and buying on the Sunshine Coast. The activity in the residential real estate market appears to be taking supply from the existing rental market.”
The Town of Gibsons and District of Sechelt also have on their radar the potential negative impact of more landlords opting to enter the short-term rental market, through services like Airbnb.
In April, Sechelt Coun. Darnelda Siegers noted, “We have issues with Airbnb and VRBO [another popular short term rental service]. In my other job [mortgage broker] I regularly have people approaching me in February, March, etc., of every year, and more so lately, indicating that their rental is no longer going to be available because it’s going to be a short-term rental.”
In a recent report to Gibsons council, planner Andre Boel said, “The exact impact of the ‘sharing economy’ is still unclear. For some people, short-term rental may help to pay for mortgage or other cost. Providing accommodation for visitors may have positive effects for the local economy. On the other hand, it may reduce the number of rental housing units available.”
“I don’t think you can blame individual property owners for wanting to maximize the return on their investments, but the people bearing the brunt of the increase are those on marginal and fixed incomes who can least afford it,” Major said.
Chapman, though, said renters of all backgrounds are in a bind right now. “It’s not just low-income people who are struggling. It’s also middle class people, as well, who are [coming] here to invest in the community. We still struggle.”
Major said he sees things turning around, but not in a hurry, because what it will take is more construction. And, as Chapman sees it, it’s not just more construction, but the type of construction. “In the city there are different types of co-op housing you can get into, or more options on townhomes and stuff. You don’t really have that [here], especially in Sechelt,” she said.
In the meantime, Sunshine Coast renters are likely to continue to feel pressure from an overheated Lower Mainland market.
Originally Published On: http://www.coastreporter.net/