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Nanaimo city council presented with ‘shocking’ housing affordability concerns

4 out of 5 tenants in Nanaimo report spending more than 30% of their total household income on rent
Responses from renters and landlords to a recent City of Nanaimo survey revealed renters are paying ever higher proportions of total household incomes for rent, and are experiencing shortages of all accommodations, especially for families, renters with pets and people with mobility challenges. (News Bulletin file photo)

The mayor of Nanaimo has described recent survey results about rental costs in the city as “shocking.”

Nanaimo city council, at a meeting Monday, July 7, was presented with a report on renter and landlord experiences.

The report results were derived from three online surveys conducted in April and May to help the city understand the needs of renters and landlords and were recommendations from the affordable housing strategy and the health and housing action plan. Nearly 400 landlords and property managers and more than 450 renters completed the survey.

“One of the key stats that stood out for all of us, in terms of the survey, was the amount of income that folks are spending on rent in Nanaimo,” said social planner Dave Stewart.

Of renters who responded, 79 per cent said they spend more than 30 per cent of household income on rent and 28 per cent of respondents spend more than 50 per cent of income to keep a roof over their heads.

“Thirty per cent is the threshold B.C. Housing, [Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation] and rental experts in general use as an affordability calculator,” Stewart said. “If you’re spending more than 30 per cent of your income on rent, your housing is not affordable. So, what this tells us is 80 per cent of those respondents do not have affordable housing.”

Stewart noted the statistic is significantly higher than what was reported in the 2016 census, which reported 48 per cent of Nanaimo renters said they spent more than 30 per cent of income on rent, which is higher than the B.C. average of 43 per cent.

“That still leaves a substantial portion of people who are spending between 30 and 50 per cent of their income on rent…” Mayor Leonard Krog said. “I just want to emphasize, for anyone who’s listening, it’s a pretty shocking statistic.”

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Seventy-six per cent of renters reported difficulty finding accommodation. Of those, 95 per cent cited cost of housing as a barrier, 86 per cent cited lack of available rentals (Nanaimo had a one-per cent vacancy rate as of October 2020), 67 per cent cited lack of pet-friendly rentals and 12 per cent of people reported a lack of accessible housing.

Twenty-eight per cent complained of a lack of family-friendly rentals. Steward said city staff will be working on developing a family-friendly housing strategy within the coming two years.

Forty-two per cent of renters aren’t happy with their accommodations, with most citing inadequate space, followed by cost, condition of rental, relationship with their landlord, location and accessibility.

Property owners, managers and landlords shared their concerns. Only 16 per cent said they had trouble renting suites or apartments, given Nanaimo’s low vacancy rate, or had problems keeping tenants. Their biggest complaints were with difficulty ending tenancies and challenges with the residential tenancy act, followed by property damage and tenants not paying rent on time.

“We asked some landlords if they were interested in supporting tenants that receive rental support,” Stewart said. “Seventeen per cent already do that, however, 50 per cent … were not interested in supporting tenants that receive rental support. The remaining number are interested in hearing about programs and being part of that.”

Stewart said staff are working with the Nanaimo’s building inspections department to develop a plan to address shortages of accessible units and multi-family housing.
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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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