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Nanaimo's rental vacancy rate increases

Nanaimo renters won’t get a break on their monthly housing bill, despite an increase in the city’s vacancy rate.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s fall report on vacancy rates across the country show Nanaimo’s rate increase to 6.3 per cent in 2011, up from 3.3 per cent last year.

That’s a trend that started with the economic crunch a few years ago, said John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner.

“The trend toward more vacancy in the market is continuing,” he said.

But the average cost to rent a bachelor pad, apartment or a house doesn’t decrease as quickly. Average rent in Nanaimo actually went up to $720 in 2011, from $705 last year.

By comparison, the vacancy rate in Kamloops increased from 2.6 to 2.9 per cent, with average rent increasing slightly, from $742 to $747. Victoria’s rental vacancy rate went from 1.5 to 2.1 per cent, with rent edging from $864 to $879.

Over time, rental prices might come down with more units available for rent, said Horn.

“The more stock you put in, the more competitive the prices become,” he said.

More rental units are coming online in the next two years, with a large development on Terminal Avenue, just north of Townsite Road.

But Horn credits more secondary suites and laneway housing with creating more rental options in Nanaimo. The biggest increases came in bachelor, one- and two-bedroom suites.

“People are creating more options,” he said. “That will help the situation get better over time.”

The jump in vacancy rate has no effect on Nanaimo’s lowest income earners, many of whom are living on a government housing allowance of $375 a month, said Jim Spinelli, executive director of Nanaimo Affordable Housing.

“Market housing is out of reach for everyone on a fixed income,” he said.

The society manages housing for singles, families as well as supportive housing, none of which sees high turnover. Wait-lists top 100 people for singles and 120 for families, who could wait up to three years for housing to become available.

“Our waiting lists say the same,” Spinelli said. “It’s almost impossible to afford housing.”

For more information on Nanaimo’s vacancy rate and how it compares to other cities, please visit www. cmhc.ca.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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