Calgary’s rental squeeze to get worse
When Gisele Knorr’s landlord tripled her rent, she could be forgiven for thinking she’d experienced the worst of Calgary’s housing market.
She elected to move rather than accept the rent hike — $400 a month to $1,200 — but was forced to leave her latest apartment when the landlord sold the property.
That was more than a year ago, and she has spent most of that time at the Calgary YWCA, unable to find a place she can afford and sick of touring apartments that are “essentially shoeboxes.”
The market for rentals under $1,000 a month was “pathetic,” she said.
“Nine hundred dollars, that’s what the starting rate was for something that was barely worth looking at.
“The carpet is threadbare, they won’t paint it. The light fixtures are broken or don’t work at all. The bathroom has so much porcelain chipped you might as well be washing in an old tin bathtub.
“I don’t think $900 should be the bottom for a reasonable place.”
Knorr’s options are limited. She broke her back working for fire rescue in southern California 16 years ago and, despite continuing in a less physical job for a time, is now living on a $1,600 a month disability pension
The latest property numbers would make grim reading for her.
Figures from leading Alberta property website rentfaster.ca show its listings have jumped 30 per cent since September 2012 — from 2,300 to more than 3,000 — but the new supply was not in the areas it was needed most.
“The problem is just the stuff being built tends to be higher-end condos,” rentfaster.ca president Darren Paddock said.
“Gone are the days where it’s relatively easy to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000. They just don’t really exist.”
Average rents for apartments, condos, townhouses and shared rentals on the website are all up on a year ago.
The townhouse average has increased the most — up 20 per cent since September 2012 — followed by apartments (11 per cent), shared rentals (10 per cent) and condos (five per cent).
The high demand means landlords can be choosy, Paddock said.
Despite rentfaster.ca’s availability rise, the citywide vacancy rate — which sat at 1.2 per cent in April — is set to fall in the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) 2013 fall rental market report.
The corporation put the average rent in Calgary at $1,150 a year ago, forecasting it would rise to about $1,230 by next month and to about $1,280 by October 2014, Cho said.
Boardwalk Properties director of community development David McIlveen said high tenant turnover is the one respite from low vacancy rates.
“Typically, you have up to 40 per cent of all rental units turn over each year. Even if vacancy was zero, you would still have maybe 15,000 units turning over.
“Around the first of the month is when all the notices are given to vacate ... that’s when people have to contact landlords and view suites immediately.”