It is getting easier and easier to find a place to rent in Penticton.
According to the latest statistics from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, vacancy has continued to increase in the city.
Comparing data collected in the months of April 2010 and 2011, the CMHC found that overall vacancies for townhouses and apartments of all sizes in Penticton had jumped from four to 5.8 per cent since last year.
The increase translated to 129 units available for rent of a possible 2,212, up from 97 units in October and 88 units during the same time last year.
The numbers reflected a longer overall shift upwards in rental unit availability in the city since the economy crashed in 2008. The CMHC reported townhouse and apartment vacancy rates at 1.1 per cent in October 2008, 1.9 in April 2009, then jumping to 3.5 in October 2009, hitting four per cent in April and 4.4 in October.
While the overall rental rates decreased on average by just over 4.5 per cent to $727 a month, almost all of that decline can be attributed to the rate for three-bedroom and larger townhouses, which dipped rom $1,327 in April 2010 to $958 this year. The average rental rate for apartments remained steady at $707 and smaller townhouses also saw little change in price.
Compared to the rest of B.C. — using municipalities with populations over 10,000 people — Penticton’s overall 5.8 vacancy rate was well below the provincial average of 3.7 per cent. However, regionally it was still lower than its Okanagan Valley neighbours, with Summerland tracking at 8.4 per cent (up big time from last year’s 2.9), Kelowna at 6.8 and Vernon at 7.2.
Cost-wise, Penticton’s $727 average rental rate was higher than Summerland at $687 and Vernon at $719 but lower than Kelowna at $840 a month. The provincial average monthly rental rate was $914, up from $905 in April 2010.
Coun. Garry Litke, who worked on the city’s social development advisory committee with the Penticton Kiwanis Housing Society to build a low-income senior’s facility, called CMHC’s findings encouraging.
“The trend looks to me to be positive,” Litke said. “The landlords might not agree with me but certainly this makes it more affordable for people who looking for places to live.”
Litke noted that the area has a lot of minimum-wage earners and people who are living around the poverty line.
“I have seen a lot of substandard living conditions around here too, things that people are trying to rent out that don’t meet safety standards and that are quite dangerous,” he said. “People crowded into little basement suites with no windows. They are obviously illegal but when the demand is there the landlords can get away with that sort of stuff. But when there is a higher vacancy rate and the prices are better then it just makes it easier for people to find decent accommodation.
“They don’t have to put up with that other kind of stuff.”
Litke said council’s decisions to legalize secondary suites and carriage houses has helped.
“It was kind of slow to take off but it seems to be gaining some traction in the last year or so,” he said. “People are seeing them more and more as a mortgage a helper for themselves but it also helps the housing situation as well.
“There have also been quite a lot of subdivisions, duplexes and fourplexes (approved). I would like to see a couple of apartment buildings that are maybe six or eight storeys high in the downtown area because that would revitalize the downtown as well.”
“What is being proposed on the old Supervalu site would be ideal: a couple floors of commercial and business with six or eight floors of residential units on top. That is the kind of development that would make the downtown really vibrant.”