Prices edge higher for rental housing in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Rental housing vacancies are down this year, sparking a rise in rental costs.

Less rental housing is available compared to last year and costs to rent a house, apartment or room are up, too.

A drop in Nanaimo’s overall vacancy rate, from 8.3 per cent in spring 2013 to 5.3 per cent as of April this year, helped push prices up.

From spring 2013 to spring 2014 costs to rent a one- or two-bedroom space has gone up about two per cent.

Amrit Manhas, economic development officer with Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, characterized the increase as moderate and well within the annual rent increase of 2.2 per cent set by the B.C. government’s Rental Tenancy Branch.

Nanaimo’s average cost for rental housing, including bachelor, one-, two- and three-plus bedroom dwellings now stands at $740 per month, up from $723, but that’s just an overall average, she said. Rental housing prices range from $574 for a bachelor suite to $1,011 for a home or apartment with three or more bedrooms, according to the most recent Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics.

Vancouver has the highest rents of all major centres in B.C. at $1,090 per month. Port Alberni boasts the cheapest rents at $617.

Manhas said pressure on the rental market has come from slightly improved employment for people 15-24, which allowed young people to move out on their own, and from people immigrating from overseas or attending Vancouver Island University.

Ian Johnsrude, manager of student housing, said the university does face housing supply pressures and is looking at expanding its student housing. VIU current has 386 single-bed rental units for students.

After their first year, students are encouraged to find housing in the community.

“First year students need a safe place to go to, but then they need to go out into the community and find housing rather than keeping 300 of our 386 beds for second-, third-, and fourth-year students who are more than equipped to go out into the rental market.”