Survival is the only concern as Canadian tenants struggle to pay their rent

Survival is the only concern as Canadian tenants struggle to pay their rent

Kassandra Johnson says she used to be proud to be able to house St. Catharines, Ont.

“Most weeks I have to choose between feeding my kids, putting gas in my car to get them to school, or paying the rent,” Johnson wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Thursday.

CTVNews.ca heard from a number of Canadians struggling to afford their homes. A sharp rise in rental prices over the past few months has forced many to downsize, with some having to move or move in with their parents.

Johnson, a single mother of two young children, said she currently rents a small three-bedroom apartment for $1,650 a month, with no utility bills, while working two jobs and attending university full-time. The savings she set aside in hopes of one day buying a home have dwindled, she said, and she’s struggling to make ends meet.

“Before the housing boom, I was well on my way and saving to buy my first home,” Johnson wrote. “Now, I’m almost 30 years old, I’ve used up all my savings and I’m afraid I’ll never own a house.

“This [rental] the market put me in one of the worst financial positions [of] all my life.”

St. Catharines, Ont., is one of many cities that has seen a sharp increase in average rent prices over the past few months. According to the latest National Rent Report published by Rentals.ca and Bullpen Research and Consulting, the average rental price for all types of Canadian properties listed on the site in July was $1,934. That’s an increase of 2.6 percent compared to June, with prices rising due to strong demand in the rental market, the report said.

Toni King, another Canadian who responded to CTVNews.ca, is among those who have had to move from cities as a result of rising prices.

For the past two years, King said she has been renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Sylvan Lake, Alta., for about $1,250 a month. Although she received an offer to renew her lease for September, King is expected to pay about $1,480 a month instead, she said.

“Being a one-income family, I could barely afford the $1,248, let alone the raise,” King wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

As a result, King was forced to move and now lives on the main floor of a house in Lacombe, Alta. Despite being only a 30-minute drive from where she lived, King said she had to pay nearly $1,000 just to move. He now pays $1,350 a month in rent, including utilities.

“It’s been a super stressful three months and it’s cost me a lot of money in the meantime,” King wrote.

Crystal Gibson, another tenant, said she was also forced out of her home due to rising prices. For nearly four years, she rented a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Kingston, Ont., for about $1,400 a month. But her landlord recently sold the house, so Gibson couldn’t find a similar property at the same price, she said.

“Essentially a one-room [unit] it’s now $1,400 and has three bedrooms [unit] it’s $2,500 and up, and that’s on the low end!” Gibson wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

For the time being, Gibson has moved in with her parents, including her five-year-old son. Although she is still looking for a suitable rental home, she says finding one within her budget has been difficult, especially with so many applicants competing.

“[I] I’ve never had the trouble I’ve had with rentals and prices more than I have in the last two years,” she wrote. “I can’t continue to live with my parents, but I also can’t find rent, I feel doomed!”

‘THE DREAM IS GONE’

A recent survey by insurance company Canada Life revealed that almost half of Canadians who rent said they expect to continue doing so indefinitely. Some of the key reasons behind this were a lack of cash and uncertainty about the future, with high inflation continuing to affect Canadians’ income from sales.

Jeff Sinasac said he and his wife lived in a downtown Toronto apartment for 25 years before the complex was sold in 2020 and they were forced to leave. Both were saving money for a down payment on a house at the time and were “hoping to finally get out of the rent trap,” he said.

They have since managed to find a new home, but are paying nearly double the rent, Sinasac said.

“We are no longer saving for a house. That dream is gone,” he wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday. “The only concern is survival.

This is also the case for downtown Vancouver-based Corinne Niddrie. Niddrie currently lives in a studio apartment that is less than 37.16 square meters and pays $1,725 ​​a month.

“I have a professional job for a reputable company as an analyst [and] it’s still hard for me to manage paying that much rent plus bills and groceries…let alone trying to save any money,” she wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

According to the latest data compiled by Rentals.ca, the average rental price for a one-bedroom unit in Vancouver was $2,500 in July. The average rental price for a two-bedroom unit in the city in the same month was $3,630. Both Vancouver and Toronto have some of the highest rents for one- and two-bedroom apartments in the country, according to the data.

“Living in the city is a struggle,” Niddrie said.

Those living further north are also struggling to make ends meet. Riley Coppicus lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, where he says residents have not been immune to rising rent prices over the past few months.

According to a rent survey conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics in October 2021, rental units in all building types in the city had a median price of $1,233 per month. A separate report released that same year by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) calculated the average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in Whitehorse to be $1,296.

Now, Coppicus said most two-bedroom units in the city are priced around $2,000, not including utilities. Those prices make it difficult to save money, he said.

“Every little emergency like … a car window cracked in the cold and needing to be replaced immediately eats up what little savings we have and it’s back to square one,” he wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.

At this rate, Coppicus said he and his family will have to wait years before they can save enough money for a down payment on a house. Housing affordability remains an issue in Whitehorse, where “market options are out of reach for some households without financial assistance,” according to a report from CMHC.

Amid affordability concerns across the country, experts say Canadians are unlikely to see a significant drop in rental prices over the next few months. With Canada’s inflation rate remaining high, landlords will likely continue to turn to their tenants to cover additional costs, said Moshe Lander, an economics professor at Concordia University.

“We all experience inflation — landlords are not immune to it,” Lander told CTVNews.ca in a June 15 phone interview. “Where could I go? [my] employer and say, ‘You have to give me more pay to keep up with him [inflation]landlords … go to tenants and say, ‘I’m raising your rent.'”

Paul Danison, chief content officer of Rentals.ca, said he eventually expects the pace of these rent increases to slow. Ideally, Canadians will see a turnaround in the rental market in 2023, he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and Michael Lee.

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