Tenant prices have fallen as Vancouver and Victoria rents jump 20% in 6 months

Everything seems to get more expensive. Food, gas and housing prices are on the rise, while paychecks are slow to keep pace.

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Canadians migrating from other provinces to the West Coast are putting even more pressure on BC’s already tight housing supply, pushing rents even further out of reach.

Average rents paid by tenants in Vancouver and Victoria have risen more than 20% over the past six months, according to the recently released National Rent Rankings.

Many are wondering how they will be able to continue paying for housing in a province that has seen tenant prices deteriorate for years.

One such tenant is Victorian nursing student Jett Carey, who said he has spent the past four years having to move again and again between shared homes due to high rents and low supply.

“I move every year, basically — once or twice a year,” Carey told CBC News on Thursday. “Every September it will be the same kind of situation, where myself and a bunch of other friends…will apply for a bunch of different houses. A lot of times we won’t get it.”

He said he hadn’t been named on a lease for three years, instead finding himself crammed into smaller and smaller rooms in the overcrowded houses of other tenants.

“They had spoken to the landlord, signed the lease and packed in all the rooms – and I was one of those people,” he said.

Slashing seven residents into a house rented to just four of them was the only way he could afford rent — in which each housemate paid $700 a month — in his newest home.

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At this rate, he considers himself lucky compared to the other tenants of the provincial capital.

According to new rental statistics released on Friday, average rents in Victoria are over $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and nearly $2,700 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Vancouver remains the most expensive market in the country – with renters paying more than $2,200 a month for a one-bedroom unit, an increase from previous years. By comparison, renters in Calgary pay an average of nearly $1,300 per month for one bedroom and $1,500 for two bedrooms.

Data from Rentals.ca on the average cost of one and two bedroom rental units in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary, published March 18, 2022 as part of the National Rent Rankings. (Radio-Canada News)

“It’s a huge pressure”

Prices are rising dramatically, thanks to the still scarce housing supply and the arrival of more and more people from other places in British Columbia.

BC Housing Minister David Eby told CBC News the data highlights the biggest movement of people in the province in decades.

“It was a 30-year high in migration from other provinces and other countries,” Eby said, “at the same time that we had a 30-year low in the number of real estate registrations”.

In addition, the problem has been compounded by vacancy rates below 1% in most major cities in British Columbia.

“So it’s a huge pressure.”

For housing data expert Leo Spalteholz, with House Hunt Victoria, increasing the density of single-family neighborhoods is the solution. But such an approach is also often extremely controversial among existing residents in these areas.

“What we have to accept is that change is inevitable,” Spalteholz said. “And if we plan it ahead and distribute it equally across the region, it could improve our region in terms of creating more affordable and inclusive communities.”

“They have to be really creative”

Paul Danison, director of content for Rentals.ca, said such “inclusion zoning” would allow for more duplexes, triplexes and multiple units built on properties once designated for a single dwelling unit.

“It’s very difficult unless you have mom and dad’s bank,” he said. “It’s incredibly difficult for students – they’re going to have to hire more roommates, find more basement apartments, look for co-ops and co-living situations. They have to be very creative.

“It’s a problem that really needs to be addressed…Officials are going to have to take some action.”

Eby said his government is considering changing the law to overcome resistance from cities that aren’t approving affordable housing projects fast enough. And he said British Columbia is considering other countries like New Zealand, which has banned single-family home zoning in its major cities.

For Carey, as a tenant, such changes cannot come soon enough and may be too little, too late for many tenant families.

“The amount you pay in rent is not justified by the opportunities here,” he said. “It’s just too expensive.”

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